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The GMC on trial

GMC Arora

Last Thursday, I spoke to the Doncaster BAME GP forum and we spoke about issues related to race. I said that there remained problems with GMC tribunals and the fitness-to-practice process related to race. But I said I felt the regulator was genuine about wanting to address this (something I am not sure is true of all organisations).

However, following this week’s story about the GP suspended for ‘dishonesty’ for ‘exaggerating’ claims she was promised a laptop, I feel like retracting this opinion.

We had a few commenters on our article asking whether there is more to this story – and I don’t blame them, I was asking the same. But having read the judgment (twice), I can say that Dr Manjula Arora was indeed suspended for telling her head of IT that she was ‘promised’ a laptop when in fact her medical director said he would ‘note her interest’ in a laptop when one comes available. Other than this act of ‘dishonesty’, the verdict makes clear that she is an honest person.

It’s pointless to get into the rights and wrongs of the verdict as it was straight out wrong. A GP was suspended for a month for what was at most a white lie. (When we sent out a breaking news on the story, the amount of traffic caused problems with the site. Our own head of IT read it while sorting out the problem and chuckled that he’s heard such exaggerated claims dozens of times a year).

But the GMC has serious questions to answer, and most are the same asked after the Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba case. First, does it really want to address the racial disparities in its investigations? I can’t help but think that if Dr Arora was a white male, this incident would’ve been settled with a wry smile from his employer. Instead, a GP has been told her fitness to practise is impaired and has been suspended for a month.

Second, although the case was pre-pandemic, the court documents show that Dr Arora was clearly facing an unsustainable workload. Since the pandemic, and even after Bawa-Garba, the GMC said it would take workload into account. Why hasn’t it done so here?

Third, the whole point of these processes isn’t to punish doctors, it’s to keep patients safe. So do they really believe that this action – which takes a GP out of the system at a time of huge workforce problems – makes patients safer?

There are plenty more questions: how much was spent on this trial? Why wasn’t this sorted out locally? Should GPs tread on eggshells to ensure they never say anything can potentially be misconstrued or vaguely false?

And most importantly, hasn’t the GMC and its tribunal service got better things to do? Because I know GPs do.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at editor@pulsetoday.co.uk

READERS' COMMENTS [9]

Vinci Ho 25 May, 2022 2:02 pm

‘’ But I said I felt the regulator was genuine about wanting to address this (something I am not sure is true of all organisations).’’
Am I right to say GMC gave you an impression that they had ‘promised’ something then , Jaimie?
These words ‘promised’ , ‘exaggerated’ , ‘Dishonesty ’ and ‘bring the medical profession into disrepute’ used by GMC all seem to me a ‘new’ English language with their different meanings as most us understand every day . Remember Newspeak geniously

Vinci Ho 25 May, 2022 2:04 pm

Remember Newspeak ingeniously created by my idol Mr Orwell in 1984?🤨😎
No wonder , China and Russia are proclaiming that western democracy is on decline and will be replaced by their Eastern way of governing from now on

Vinci Ho 26 May, 2022 7:49 am

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 above , 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

Sonia Chester 26 May, 2022 8:41 am

Thank you Jaimie. This is a shocking & blatantly unfair case. I’m glad there’s push back & hope the verdict is robustly challenged for all our sakes.

David Church 26 May, 2022 12:53 pm

I would say more : the quote from the manager’s email is clearly a promiss of a laptop, and anyone who says otherwise is not quite complying with the requirement to tell the truth in court! And truth/untruth is perhaps more black and white in such a case!
This doctor’s account is more true than that of the accusers.
English is my first language, and I have over 50 years of experience of it.

Patrufini Duffy 26 May, 2022 9:11 pm

I had a dream one day. It was a weird one.
I didn’t tell my receptionist there are chocolate cookies in the kitchen cabinet. I actually lied blatantly about it. I also didn’t tell my GP colleague that I drank 2 glasses of wine and 1 beer on my 50th birthday, and wasn’t sober, and that I was tipsy and vomited on the doorstep of the GMC because I have a gluten allergy. And I serially lie to patients daily, that I am happy to refer them, when actually I am not – and I practice non-evidence based referrals, but just want to please the GMC and clog the system with boring defensive medicine and bending over heroics. It was a funny dream. Let’s all be referred to the GMC for a chit chat about a slip slap. What are we, shackled robots or the top 1% and not a Harold Shipman? Maybe that’s it, the power trip out of jealousy. The people that need watching, are them and their mates. You know, mates rates contacts and contracts. Good practice that is. All very seedy up their in the ivory towers. Being a good human being. Pass us all a sick bowl coloured in hipocrasy. They were nationally shamed on This Is Going To Hurt, a series that ultimately said, stuff you and showed the public what a cold thorn they are. Why can’t Pulse leverage a comment by Mr Massey or Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen. Doctors pay their salaries. Let’s hear their comment. Or are they out of office currently for half term conveniently?

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

Scottish GP 27 May, 2022 6:24 pm

Top rant Patrufini!😁

Dave Haddock 29 May, 2022 10:04 pm

The GMC can get away with pretty much anything because it has a monopoly on Registration.
Why should only one organisation have this power? The consequence of this is inevitably abuse of that power.

David jenkins 30 May, 2022 11:41 am

“absolute power corrupts absolutely”

can’t remember who said that.