A group of doctors, including some GPs, has begun legal proceedings against the GMC based on what they say is a failure to act on Covid-19 vaccine misinformation.
On Friday, the group, whose members wish to remain anonymous, sent a formal pre-action protocol letter to the GMC, which is a warning that legal action is imminent.
In January, these doctors called on the regulator to investigate Dr Aseem Malhotra’s fitness to practise due to what they claim is his ‘high-profile promotion of misinformation about Covid-19 mRNA vaccines’.
Dr Malhotra, a consultant cardiologist, campaigner and author, has over half a million followers on Twitter, with most recent posts focusing on the Covid vaccine.
The upcoming action, which is led by lawyers from the Good Law Project, is based on the GMC’s refusal to carry out an investigation.
Professor Trish Greenhalgh, a GP and academic in primary care at the University of Oxford who has been in touch with the group, told Pulse the ‘scandal is that the GMC do not think it’s their job to investigate doctors who have massive, massive followings on social media and who fan the flames of disinformation’.
In a letter to the GMC in April, before the group received an official refusal, the doctors argued the regulator ‘is required to investigate whether Dr Malhotra’s fitness to practise is impaired by virtue of his campaign against the Covid-19 vaccine’.
The letter added: ‘Failing to act poses a potential risk to patients and to public trust in both the medical profession and the GMC as regulator.’
Professor Greenhalgh said one of the reasons the GMC has refused is that there is a ‘lack of direct proof linking a particular anti-vax statement with harm to a particular patient’.
She said: ‘The days when the worst thing you could possibly do is take out the wrong kidney are gone. Now because of the way that social media reproduce and amplify statements, round and round and round, they have a reach of millions.
‘So repeated statements of “mRNA vaccines are unsafe, mRNA vaccines cause heart attacks, mRNA vaccines are much worse than getting a disease” – none of those things are true.
‘The problem is you can’t draw a direct line between a particular statement and patient harm. And it’s time to stop thinking that’s necessary.’
The group has been fundraising to help cover the legal costs of a challenge to the GMC, and so far it has raised almost £5,000.
Dr Malhotra said in response: ‘Having been one of the first to take two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and even tackle vaccine hesitancy on Good Morning Britain I had to change my position when the evidence changed in keeping with good medical practice.
‘The covid mRNA vaccines have common and serious adverse consequences including death and should likely never have been approved in the first place. Ignoring such evidence is in my view down to wilful blindness.
‘I will continue as I have always done with an impeccable private and public track record to promote the very highest standards of ethical evidence based medical practice.’
A GMC spokesperson said: ‘We carefully consider all complaints raised with us, and thoroughly examine all relevant information before making decisions about whether they meet the statutory threshold for investigation.
‘We take action where there is evidence of a risk to patients or public confidence or a serious breach of proper professional standards or conduct. We do not take this responsibility lightly, and realise that our decisions can sometimes be disappointing for complainants.’
In June last year, a consultant surgeon, Mr Adil, was suspended for six months by the MPTS due to his anti-vaccination statements.
Mr Adil tried to appeal this decision at the High Court, but in April his appeal was dismissed and the court upheld the MPTS’s finding that his actions conflicted with the professional standards set by the GMC, particularly the obligation to uphold public trust in the profession.
Pulse reported in November 2021 that GPs who criticise the Covid vaccine on social media could be ‘vulnerable’ to GMC investigation, according to the Medical Protection Society (MPS).
In September last year, the Government had to confirm that Covid vaccination advice for pregnant women had not changed after false reports had been circulating that approval for this had been quietly removed.