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Where’s my get-out-of-jail-free card?



Does the GMC respect your work as a doctor? After the inexplicable decision to award their plum job to a guy whose red-faced appearance in front of the Public Accounts Committee made my second year pass-fail pharmacology viva attempt look slicker than Fonzie doing the moonwalk, I’d kind of assumed that the organisation held all of us in equal contempt. But some doctors, it transpires, are more equal than others.

As a mere GP, my work isn’t deemed valuable enough for such antics

According to a recent ruling by the GMC’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service* an eye surgeon who conducted a 15-month sexual relationship with a patient was found to have impaired fitness to practise, but the MPTS decided not to sanction him as it concluded his surgical skills and abilities were ‘truly exceptional’ and it would be ‘jeopardising patient safety’ to suspend him. 

Let that sink in for a moment. Just as Premiership clubs overlook the Bacchanalian excesses of their star players, and the Government decided that the banks who stuffed the economy are too big to fail, so it turns out there’s a secret clause at the end of Good Medical Practice that says ‘PS: If you’re like super good at fixing cataracts you can pretty much ignore everything else in here. Fill your boots LOL.’

Where was I? Oh yeah. I imagine it would be quite fun to walk into a fitness to practise hearing safe in the knowledge that your job renders you untouchable. I’d be tempted to sit there fabricating my CV on a big screen projection, and then, on my inevitable acquittal, direct a conspiratorial wink at the panel before conspicuously prescribing myself a crate of celebratory heroin.

Of course as a mere GP, my work isn’t deemed valuable enough for such antics. But why not? This week Pulse listed 10 quiet successes of general practice, from enhanced cancer survival to reduced teenage pregnancies. There’s no miracles here, no rockstars, just thousands of hardworking professionals, diligently ticking boxes and tweaking behaviours, with a net result of millions of lives improved and countless pounds saved.  We lowly grunts may not merit a get-out-of-GMC-jail-free card as individuals, but our collective efforts are something to be proud of. 

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson

*Pulse have asked me to make it clear that the decision was taken not by the GMC per se but by its arms-length subsidiary, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, which, though a statutory committee of the GMC and funded through the same non-voluntary stethoscope tax, considers itself to be a separate and independent entity. I therefore urge readers to note the subtle distinction between the GMC and the MPTS and to definitely not copy my schoolboy error of viewing them as two cheeks of the same arse.