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BMA asks GMC to review basis for climate change GP suspension

BMA asks GMC to review basis for climate change GP suspension

The BMA has written to the GMC expressing ‘serious concerns’ about the suspension of a GP who attended climate change protests, and demanding a review.

Last week, an MPTS panel decided to suspend Birmingham GP Dr Sarah Benn’s registration for five months due to multiple breaches of a court order, a decision that sparked criticism among the profession.

Pulse also revealed that several GPs felt there was a conflict of interest for the BMA’s GP Committee for England with regards to the case, as Dr Julius Parker –  its deputy chair – was the medical member on the panel that made the decision. 

Now the union’s chair of council Professor Phil Banfield has written to the GMC’s chief executive Charlie Massey asking the regulator to review the basis on which Dr Benn found herself in front of a medical tribunal.

He said: ‘We believe doctors should adhere to the law, but many in the profession will find it very difficult to understand that their ability to practise medicine could be suspended because of peaceful actions they take in protest to the climate crisis.

‘Whilst we know the GMC currently has a legal duty to refer doctors to a medical tribunal when they receive a custodial sentence following a criminal conviction, this is not the case where the custodial sentence relates to a civil breach, as it does here, and it’s abundantly clear that the doctor’s actions have no bearing on their ability to practise medicine and will not pose a risk to patients, past and future.’

The letter added that the BMA ‘strongly oppose’ the view that suspension will send a signal to the doctor, the profession and the public about what is regarded as behaviour ‘unbefitting of a registered doctor’.

‘By protesting peacefully about climate change and what the World Health Organisation has referred to as the greatest threat to global health, many would argue that Dr Benn has been standing up for patients and the public she has served,’ Professor Banfield added.

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Dr Benn was registered but has not held a licence to practise since 30 August 2022, and the BMA pointed out that had Dr Benn still held a licence to practise, ‘serious questions’ would be asked about the ‘perceived benefit’ of taking a doctor away from front line care in order to ‘maintain public confidence’.

The letter added: ‘The GMC further submitted that the public would simply say that the doctor was breaking the law, acting in contravention of her professional code and that doing so would diminish the public’s trust in this regulatory process and in doctors as professionals who are held to a higher standard of conduct and behaviour.

‘It is unclear how the GMC has come to that conclusion – we therefore ask that the body of evidence the GMC holds to back up this claim is made available to us.’

The union argued that there needs to be ‘urgent reconsideration’ on the framework that allows a doctor to be suspended for the punishment they already received for taking part in a ‘legitimately peaceful’ protest.

‘We ask that the GMC works with us to review the basis on which Dr Benn found herself in front of a medical tribunal,’ it concluded.

Last week, Dr Benn wrote for Pulse about her suspension.

In 2022, she wrote for Pulse about her experiences in a women’s prison, saying she ended up there because she made clear to the judge that she felt no remorse and had every intention of returning to protest again.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Liz Reddy 29 April, 2024 4:11 pm

How can we support Dr Benn and protest to the GMC? Is there a petition going?

Not on your Nelly 29 April, 2024 4:15 pm

what? this makes no difference to anything. can the BMA just concentrate on the thing that is most likly to affect patient care please, the industrial action that is about to be taken to over come the 2% pay rise and the loss of GPs ability to work and offer care, rather than a pointless doctor who has broken the law and if she worked or didn’t work would make no difference to any of us. Seriously, prioritise for the profession. please. Don’t worry about just stop oil or the any other protest any doctor wants to be a part of…even if they end up in jail through their own free will.

David Church 29 April, 2024 4:30 pm

Well, at least this decision by GMC has brought a large amount of publicity to the need to curb our excessive exploitation of the natural environment, and fossil fuels in particular, wantonly and with no thought for the climate change consequences to the generation that comes after us !

So the bird flew away 29 April, 2024 5:46 pm

Dr Parker is in a predicament. Does he stand by the BMA’s position on this matter, or the GMC’s? And should he honourably resign from one of the jobs? This dilemma will be familiar to those GPs who choose to also sit on the boards of PCN’s, ICB’s, NHSE etc. You can’t be both poacher and gamekeeper..

Bob Hodges 29 April, 2024 6:16 pm

Whilst I think its irrelevant to medical practice, the is issue is one of willfull contempt of court. The GMC should be seem to be unfair in a fair way. Would an IMG doctor have also been sanctioned for this offense? Its not like she told someone she was promised a laptop is it? She only disobeyed a specific order of court to get a bit of attention!

Secondly, Just Stop Oil is a Malthusian doomsday cult barking up an irrelevant tree. Stopping UK oil production won’t reduce UK oil consumption by a drop, but it WILL force more into fuel and food poverty as prices rise and tax revenues fall… China and Germany commission more coal fired power plants

‘Something must done’ doesn’t ean that ‘everything’ helps. In this case the actions are counter productive to the aims.

Just My Opinion 30 April, 2024 9:53 am

The reporting on this is skewed. This is not for protesting climate change peacefully. It is suspension for multiple breaches of a court order. Let’s not let our feelings for the GMC cloud our judgement and consider everything they do as wrong. This was a proportionate sanction. No one is being suspended for peaceful protest.