The GMC has granted a temporary UK practice registration to almost 900 overseas doctors to treat their national athletes during the Olympics, waiving the registration fee as a contribution to the games.
The GMC said it was by far the largest number of doctors it had registered for a single event and that there would be more to come. The overseas doctors may only treat non-UK nationals for the duration of the games.
In total, it has granted registrations to 849 doctors from 141 countries. A significant majority of these ‘Olympic’ doctors – 83% – are male, and a particularly large number of them will be supporting the French Olympic squad.
France had the most doctors registered (58), ahead of Brazil (50) and the US (46). But the US squad consists of 530 athletes to France’s 333 and Brazil’s 259. Countries with the most humble medical presence are Fiji, Micronesia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Nepal, Zambia, Honduras and Iraq, which have registered just one doctor each, while other countries are sending between 10 and 35.
The British team will be supported by 18 of its own doctors.
Niall Dickson, GMC chief executive, said: ‘Doctors play a vital role at all levels in all sports, and of course at the highest level their contribution is critical. London 2012 is a great national occasion and we are proud to have played our small part by enabling overseas doctors to come here and support their Olympic athletes during the games.’
The previous highest number of temporary registrations by the GMC was just eight doctors from 12 countries for the Women’s Rugby World Cup in England in 2010.
Commenting on the cost, the GMC said the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games has paid £24,000 towards registering the team doctors of each country attending the games, and that costs incurred above this are expected to be negligible.
Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, a GP in north London who is working at the Olympic polyclinic during the games, said: ‘The teams are quite precious and want the doctors they know. Wouldn’t we all be? But also a lot of the “medical” work is very low-level stuff and Olympic rules say anything beyond paracetamol has to be done in the polyclinic, so it would be massively labour intensive for us.
‘Many of the visiting doctors are very knowledgeable about their athletes and the cultural aspects of illnesses. Others less so. The other thing to say is that in the polyclinic our judgments take primacy, so the foreign doctors can bring a team member to us but if they want our input they have to accept our judgment.’