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GPC ‘conflict of interest’ concerns as deputy chair took part in suspending climate change GP

GPC ‘conflict of interest’ concerns as deputy chair took part in suspending climate change GP

Exclusive GPs have expressed concerns around a conflict of interest for the BMA’s GP Committee for England after a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) panel suspended a GP over climate change protests.

Earlier this 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, which resulted in a custodial sentence.

The decision sparked discussions among the profession with some doctors criticising the verdict as they thought Dr Benn’s actions posed no threat to patients.

Now Pulse understands that several GPs feel there was a conflict of interest for GPC England with regards to the case, as Dr Julius Parker –  the committee’s deputy chair – was the medical member on the panel that made the decision.  

GPs expressed worries that Dr Parker’s position on the panel would deter the GPC from publicly criticising the decision, or discourage GPs in his LMC area to raise concerns about it.

They said that this ‘demonstrates how poorly we manage conflicts of interests amongst our leaders’, and ‘how small the pool of people influencing the direction of general practice is’.

A GP in the Surrey and Sussex area, where Dr Parker is the local LMC chief executive, told Pulse: ‘There is a lot of noise on professional WhatsApp groups today about this case, a lot of unhappiness.

‘In Surrey and Sussex there is an added problem: if our local LMC committee wished to complain to the GPC executive about this decision, and ask them to publicly criticise the decision, it would entail them asking Julius Parker (as Surrey and Sussex LMC CEO) to write to the GPC executive (deputy chair, Julius Parker) to ask them to complain about a decision made on an MPTS (GP panel representative, Julius Parker).’

Others pointed out that the BMA’s own policy stated the union has no confidence in the GMC, yet Dr Parker ‘is working for them’.

Last year, the BMA passed a motion which said that ‘too many’ MPTS fitness-to-practise (FTP) decisions are ‘disproportionate to the error of the doctors mistake’ and expressed no confidence in the current tribunal.

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Another GP told Pulse: ‘Myself, and other GPs are concerned about this GMC ruling; not just the proportionality and the appropriateness of using [GMC] funds on this, but that the medical member of the three-person panel was Dr Julius Parker, CEO of Surrey and Sussex LMCs and deputy chair of GPC England.

‘Notwithstanding how it can’t be physically possible to be a deputy chair of GPCE and LMC CEO and do the tribunal work in a working week, nor the uncomfortable public messages that seem to suggest that neither the BMA nor SSLMCs team knew about his involvement in this case, it is a clear conflict of interest to be deputy chair of an organisation that represents GPs whilst working for the regulator of those same people.

‘The BMA’s own policy is very clear; it has no confidence in the GMC, yet this BMA leader is working for them whilst also upholding this policy and being the executive lead on GPC’s regulation policy group.

‘How hard can one exert influence on our regulator if one is a member of their team.  

‘Sadly for Surrey and Sussex LMC’s constituent GPs who wish to raise concerns about this, there is no freedom to speak up guardian – at least not one that anyone is aware of – for the organisation, so concerns can only be raised with Julius or the team that he employs.’

The MPTS told Pulse that before a hearing, the two parties – the GMC and the doctor – are provided with the tribunal members’ entries on the tribunal’s register of interests.

The parties can raise concerns about conflicts at any point in a hearing and ‘none were raised in this case’.

Each MPTS hearing has three tribunal members, at least one will be medically qualified and at least one will be a lay member, with the chair usually being legally qualified.

A BMA spokesperson said: ‘Interests have been appropriately declared and managed in relation to this case.

‘The BMA has issued a number of comments relating to Dr Benn’s case, and the rules which led to her being referred to an MPTS Fitness to Practice tribunal by the GMC. Dr Parker was not involved in the process of issuing those statements.

‘Doctors attending MPTS hearings are aware of all panel members, and their declared interests. The BMA has a longstanding practice of its members sitting on tribunals in a personal capacity, unrelated to their BMA role.’



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

John Glasspool 26 April, 2024 3:53 pm

The GMC- lower than vermin. The BMA- much the same.

So the bird flew away 26 April, 2024 3:58 pm

Is this evidence of a revolving door between the trade union and the regulator? Does raise questions..

Centreground Centreground 26 April, 2024 4:14 pm

Frequently noted on Pulse the rapidly developing ‘ British College of GP Board Hoppers’ -BCGPBH – in my opinion specialising in avoiding as much contact with the actual practice or any patient related decisions or work as possible

Richard Greenway 26 April, 2024 5:51 pm

Judge, Jury and Defence council rolled into one?

Fay Wilson 26 April, 2024 6:11 pm

I have known Julius Parker for some time when I was a member of GPC. We didn’t always agree but I can say he is an honest, scrupulous and knowledgeable GP who is an expert on rules and regulations. He works immensely hard to get the best that he can for GPs whether locally or nationally. He has been silent on this matter other than declaring an interest.

I was a GMC health committee member for a while and left because of culture changes and my other workload. I know a number of BMA reps who have been or are GMC panel members and would rather be judged by them than by someone with no accountability to colleagues.

Northern Trainer 26 April, 2024 10:23 pm

Literally the opposite of what patients want or need. Shame on these power-mongers who want a CBE more than being able to sleep at night. Help by quitting and seeing actual patients as you were trained to do……

Some Bloke 26 April, 2024 10:27 pm

Somebody think of the society! Our now mostly obese neurodiverse anxious, depressed, unable to work populous need certainty that this beast of climate change loonies will not upset them again.
No idea why these just stop oildiots are tolerated here

john mccormack 27 April, 2024 12:25 am

To quote Fay Wilson ‘an expert on rules and regulations” but clearly clueless on what is morally right . I gave up my RCGP membership last year and bought a new ,top of the range push awnmower. I’m now thinking how I can treat myself when I cancel my BMA membership