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BMA demands overhaul of GMC processes after ‘incomprehensible’ laptop ruling

GMC laptop

Leaders from across general practice have demanded that the GMC takes action on the ‘incomprehensible’ decision to suspend a GP over ‘semantics’ involving her work laptop.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service decision to suspend Dr Manjula Arora for a month for ‘dishonesty’ after telling an IT department she had been ‘promised’ a laptop has left the profession up in arms.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the ‘incomprehensible’ ruling will ‘add to many doctors’ fears about the GMC’s disproportionate and unfair approach to their regulatory system as it applies to the medical profession’.

And he said the case ‘raises serious questions about the processes and judgments of Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearings’. 

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘By its own admission the tribunal’s determination is based on the interpretation of a single word relating to the provision of a laptop, in an otherwise unblemished career of a doctor.

‘It is incomprehensible that suspending this doctor from caring for patients for a month, at a time of unprecedented NHS pressures, is in the public’s interest.’

While the case will have ‘no bearing’ on the public’s confidence in GPs, it will have ‘dramatically eroded the medical profession’s confidence in its regulator and exacerbated doctors’ fear of unfair treatment by the GMC’, he said.

‘A referral to the GMC can cause untold mental distress on a doctor, with some doctors having sadly taken their own lives whilst being investigated,’ he added.

The BMA has ‘repeatedly raised’ concerns about disproportionate GMC referrals by employers of doctors from ethnic minorities, he stressed, with doctors who have qualified overseas ‘three times’ more likely to be referred than UK-trained doctors.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘Doctors are perplexed and deeply concerned that the allegations in this case were referred to the GMC and were not instead resolved locally.’

This comes as the BMA ‘has already called for an external scrutiny panel to assess all employer referrals to the GMC, as another check to ensure appropriateness, given concerns that many complaints do not need regulatory investigation but can be dealt with by local processes’.

Dr Nagpaul added: ‘This ruling reinforces the BMA’s view that there needs to be a comprehensive root and branch independent evaluation of the GMC’s fitness-to-practise decision-making procedures starting from the referral process itself.’

Meanwhile, the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) has written to the GMC expressing their ‘deep concern’ over the handling of the case and tribunal decision.

It said the case is ‘worrying’ and demonstrates the GMC has ‘got its priorities completely wrong’ and ‘still has a long way to go’.

The letter, co-signed by BAPIO president Dr Ramesh Mehta and BAPIO Grand Advisory Council chairman Dr JS Bamrah, said the fact the GMC put the case to the MPTS is ‘beguiling’ and that the GMC must ‘reflect on its role in this sorry saga’.

It said the case shows ‘how the FTP process is misused to punish doctors’, adding that there were ‘multiple chances for the GMC case managers to see this case for what it was and explore the matters before putting them to the tribunal’.

BAPIO said GMC counsel Mr Hagan ‘played on semantics to make Dr Arora appear like a dishonest liar’, and called his cross-examination ‘distasteful and cringing’.

It added: ‘Why she was even in a position having to ask for an essential work tool seems to make all this even more bizarre’.

BAPIO called the ruling ‘truly punitive’, and condemned the GMC’s ‘insensitive, ill thought out, punitive and tick box manner’.

BIDA told Pulse today it would also be contacting the GMC about the outcome of the case.

A GMC spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The doctor’s employer referred a number of concerns to us around probity. Our case examiners cannot resolve disputes of fact so where such claims are disputed it is right that a doctor is able to give their account of events at a full hearing.

‘Having considered all of the evidence the tribunal found that the doctor had been dishonest and that her fitness to practise was impaired. Given that finding, and submissions from the doctor, the tribunal determined that the minimum sanction needed was a short suspension.’

The MDU, which represented Dr Arora, declined to comment.

READERS' COMMENTS [21]

John Glasspool 25 May, 2022 10:03 am

Strange that if a prime minister is dishonest he has no impairment.
GMC= Lower than vermin.

Darren Tymens 25 May, 2022 10:31 am

Well done to BAPIO and the BMA for responding strongly and quickly. I hope they are reaching out to support this doctor, and that they will take this further. GMC needs root and branch reform – it is no longer a guarantor of quality and safe practice, it is a capricious stick to beat us with.

David Church 25 May, 2022 10:53 am

Is someone claiming that she was NOT promissed a laptop?
Should that person be imprisoned for dishonesty?
The quoted line from the email is a promiss of a laptop!
David Church, 3480946

Kevlar Cardie 25 May, 2022 11:04 am

One may think that a complete boycott of Mastercall is called for.

I couldn’t possibly comment.

Turn out The Lights 25 May, 2022 11:20 am

A Boycott sound good hit em in the pocket. The only place these organisations feel pain.

Michael Mullineux 25 May, 2022 12:18 pm

I would have absolutely no confidence in the GMC offering me a fair hearing should I ever have the misfortune of being subjected to the same. I know of colleagues who have been subjected to their inquisitions and the process and conclusions have been opaque, vindictive, tortuous and obtuse to say the least. Root and branch reform is needed. The present incumbents do not inspire any confidence that they are able to deliver this. Enough of the platitudes and soundbites, time to clear out the sediment and start anew?

Vinci Ho 25 May, 2022 1:39 pm

I am going to keep my comment short today :
This case is now getting even more interesting that we could be talking about the fitnesses to practise for these GMC/MPTS counsels and the ethical code of a private company 🤨😳

Slobber Dog 25 May, 2022 2:10 pm

‘eroded the medical profession’s confidence in its regulator ‘
You can’t erode something non existent.

Anthony Gould 25 May, 2022 2:16 pm

Unless there is more to this than is in the press it seems entirely unsatisfactory and incomprehensible that the GMC referral was made
There are local processes to deal with such matters which seem more appropriate

A Locum GP 25 May, 2022 10:23 pm

The details of the case can be found on the MPTS site

https://www.mpts-uk.org/hearings-and-decisions

it’s interesting reading. Having read it – the area that interested me the most (two areas were discussed – the laptop and the ‘shutting down’ of the service) was the fact that the Dr felt that they needed to do something about the potential unsafe workload and asked if the workload on the day could be reduced for a short while. Interestingly the GMC isn’t interested in that aspect. The GMC seems to ignore all structural or system risks and focus only on the individual doctor. How can anyone take the GMC seriously in their role as an advocate for patient safety when they show a blind eye to systemic risks? The GMC could have asked for data on patient workload on the day and make a more informed decision on the doctors action i.e. if there were too many cases that no reasonable GP could manage this could have been flagged but they didn’t – why didn’t they? The request for a laptop was vague and the GMC made a lot of assumptions. The decision looks bad for the GMC and will engender more mistrust.

Jane Boskovic 26 May, 2022 6:32 am

GMC, being used as a whipping boy for : in company spite!
Trite reply from GMC is totally unacceptable.
The correct GMC response would be; to return this “problem” to its ignoble source

Vinci Ho 26 May, 2022 7:46 am

Many thanks to’’ A Locum GP 25 May, 2022 10:23 pm ‘’very , very interesting.
It has become more apparent that the culture inside an establishment like GMC needs serious overhaul with much soul searching .This reminds me the ‘culture’ inside No. 10 Downing Street , as being revealed in Sue Gray’s report published yesterday. Of course , GMC is a lot smaller establishment than the government , size wise . But together, they constitute the ‘system’ command and control doctors .
While GMC/MPTS are certainly not legal institutions, the spirits of our liberal democracy( in contrast to illiberal or pretentious democracy) in our civic society should be upheld in every corner:
* Liberty ,if it means anything, is about having the opportunity to say things people(hence , establishment)do not like to hear
* Equality is perhaps easy said than done but it is the other side of the golden coin containing Liberty . Two are like siblings but essentially exclusive . One for both , both for one . At the same time , they can find themselves in conflict time to time . The bottom line is personal preference and opinions must be respected .
* Then we have Justice , if you are familiar of Michael J Sandel and John Rawls , Liberty and Equality ( provided these two are not taking each for granted ) are fundamentally the foundations of Justice .
* To ensure justice , the judicial power must be independent of executive and legislative power in a government. Furthermore, in the wider civic society , these three values in our liberal democracy should have become the air we breathe , the bread and butter we eat daily , etc . One may not be even aware of their presence because they have long become our social norms in western civilisation

As I wrote under Jaimie’s editorial , GMC/MPTS have appeared to have seriously and repeatedly deviated from these virtues which are to be reflected by the telos of GMC as a regulatory institution of doctors in this country . The persecutory terminology used to label the misconduct of concern in this case was both egregious and dictatorial ( as I pointed out the similarity to Newspeak in George Orwell ‘s legendary book 1984). As far as the regulatory institution is concerned, the fine line between leadership and dictatorship has probably been breached already .
The saddest thing to me is the tendency of sleepwalking into conscious or unconscious bias (you should know where the latter comes from originally in the judicial review verdict involving MRCGP CSA examination ) under this highly polarised political climate .
May be , just may be , dangerously flawed hypocrisies have really eroded western democracy to the extent that the contrast to autocratic systems ( China , Russia , Iran , North Korea etc ) is now much lessened ………..
Under the name of Themsis , for those running GMC/MPTS , please go home and look into your mirror and rediscover your reflections ……….(obviously , I do not bother to ask the private company same question )

Vinci Ho
GMC no 3483114

Long Gone 26 May, 2022 8:42 am

Yet another headwind impeding recruitment and retention.
Thankfully, I’ve left the performers list but as a private practitioner I still feel very vulnerable.
And behind it all, the case appears to be a pointless overreaction to a trivial exaggeration.

Patrufini Duffy 26 May, 2022 8:38 pm

The GMC is quite a thorn, and in modern times evolved to be an embarrassing joke. Or GiMmiCk. With a history of ugly stories and unfortunate unfairness. The universe is doing it’s rounds on those who belittle others. It’s a home to comedians, that no one wants to see, full of grey stale privilege and ugly narcissism and power tripping. Building a persona, and empty kudos, to keep comfortable salaries going. I heard that on the grapevine.

https://www.gmc-uk.org/about/how-we-work/governance/executive-board/salaries-and-expenses

David jenkins 30 May, 2022 11:45 am

two words that should be in the same sentence as the letters GMC:

bawa garba

Arun Sinha 30 May, 2022 6:50 pm

Scrap MPTS and GMC, prosecute it’s anti-doctor enthusiasts.
I feel so sorry for Dr Arora. She has been penalised for a non-issue . She was clearly promised a laptop which was also her right to be provided.

Who has made this such a serious issue to finish off a doctor ?? There should be an investigation and strict action against this gang of perpetrators.

Arun Sinha 30 May, 2022 7:03 pm

https://www.rcgp.org.uk/about-us/news/2022/may/dr-arora-case.aspx
College reaction to Dr Arora case

Publication date: 30 May 2022

The College has issued the following statement in reaction to the GMC ruling on Dr Manjula Arora.
“We are deeply concerned about Dr Arora’s case and whilst we welcome the decision by the GMC to review the ruling, we will be asking for answers as to why the case was allowed to get through their screening processes and end in a Fitness to Practise Hearing and receiving a sanction.
“GPs are working in an increasingly punitive and litigious environment and any referral to the GMC causes enormous stress and distress for the doctor being investigated, their colleagues and families. As well as being devastating for Dr Arora, cases such as this only make it harder to retain existing GPs and persuade new ones to go into general practice, and particularly to work in out of hours.
“GPs and their teams are working under greater pressures than ever before. We have a severe shortage of GPs at the same time as patient demand and complexity is increasing, and we need much greater support – including better IT and infrastructure – to do our jobs properly and care for patients safely, without it adversely impacting our own health. Therefore, it seems incomprehensible to remove a doctor with, to our knowledge, an otherwise impeccable track record from frontline patient care, even for a short period of time.
“The College has raised concerns with the Care Quality Commission about the disproportionate impact of its inspection regime on doctors from minority ethnic backgrounds, and we will continue our work to ensure all regulators actively avoid perceptions of discrimination.
“We have also repeatedly highlighted the numerous IT issues that are affecting GPs’ ability to do their jobs and called on the Government to address this.”

SUBHASH BHATT 31 May, 2022 11:40 am

LAPTOP gate.
Gmc and mpts were to learn from Dr Bawa-garba case.

Nouman Alvi 31 May, 2022 9:25 pm

MPTS and formerly GMC disciplinary proceedings function on principle of ‘civilian burden of proof’. Academics in legal fraternity class civilian burden of proof as another name for kangaroo court.