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BMA paying for lawyers to support investigation of at least six complaints against GPC members

Exclusive At least half a dozen complaints against members of the BMA’s GP Committee in England are being handled by lawyers funded by BMA members, Pulse has learnt.

Under a new system implemented in 2019, complaints against a member of any BMA committee that reach a certain threshold are subject to review by an external law firm after being triaged through an external helpline.

Pulse has learnt that at least half a dozen complaints have been made against GPC England members that have met the threshold and have been investigated with the support of lawyers during the 2021/22 term.

GPs connected to the GPC have raised concerns about the complaints system being ‘weaponised’, the cost to BMA members and how the culture and conduct within the GPC is causing these complaints.  

The BMA said that the costs of the complaints system was ‘confidential’.  

The new complaints system was introduced following a report by Orla Tierney QC that found that complaints ‘were raised to stifle debate, disrupt elections and settle old scores’.

The report by Daphne Romney QC, which looked into sexism across the BMA, concluded that she would have recommended the same system.

One GP close to the committee said of the new system: ‘The complaints system is still being weaponised, but in a much more expensive way.’

Pulse understands that the complaints against GPC England members have been made by staff and other committee members.

These have often related to the conduct on the listserver (the email group used by GPC members), and specifically around elections to officer roles within GPC.

A BMA spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The current external independent complaints procedure is the product of [the Tierney report] recommendations and that report, and this approach was endorsed by the Romney review. The use of an independent law firm, Weightmans, was specifically recommended by Tierney.

‘The Tierney report was also clear that all complaints required investigation which is why if there are a higher number of complaints on a committee, it would follow that there is a higher number of investigations.’

Dr John Hughes, chair of GP Survival, said: ‘While GP Survival welcomes the principle of external scrutiny of cases referred to the internal BMA complaints process, we are concerned that this is facilitated by referral of so many cases to an external law firm rather than an independent expert panel of clinicians with access to legal advice, and with the potential costs to BMA budget.

‘We are also concerned to learn that since the introduction of this scrutiny there have been at least six cases from GPC; this large number from a single committee suggests either a deeply dysfunctional culture of bullying and harassment or a vexatious misuse of the process to target individuals and attempt to stifle dissent, as we have observed elsewhere with the weaponisation of PAG and GMC referrals.’

Pulse revealed yesterday that the culture and conduct within GPC England – which included sexist comments – contributed to its chair having to take sick leave within months of taking up her role.

READERS' COMMENTS [4]

Clare Sieber 1 June, 2022 8:05 am

No longer a BMA member for obvious reasons, but those of you who are should kick up hell at your organisation not disclosing the cost of these investigations because it’s ‘confidential’. And you may also like to google Weightmans and see if you recognise any familiar names on the list of its partners…

paul cundy 1 June, 2022 9:49 am

Dear All,
Referring every complaint for formal external investigation by lawyers is clearly disproportionate as well as being an inappropriate use of members’ subscriptions.
Regards
Paul Cundy

Vinci Ho 1 June, 2022 12:50 pm

This only reminds me that we are paying GMC annually for their ‘treatment’ for some of our colleagues.
And my three words for those involving this scrutiny inside BMA are :
Transparency
Honesty
Humility