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A Crack at The Afghan, Sir!

Posted by Dr No on 08 January 2015

hsc_2.jpgA medical school somewhere in England. A panel has assembled to interview prospective candidates. In the centre is Professor Sir Turpentine Stephenson, newly appointed Chair of the GMC. On the left sits Stilton, Chief Executive Pongo for the time being of the GMC; on the right sits His Honour David Fake-Pearl, Chair of the Medical Students Tribunal Service. Fake-Pearl appears to be reading a catalogue of some sort, possibly of spring bulbs. Stilton repeatedly inspects his finger nails. Stephenson gets out a fountain pen labelled ‘MI6 100% nitric acid, emergency use only’ and twirls it in his fingers. Bored observers sit behind the panel.

A bell rings, the panelled door opens to reveal a young lad standing on the threshold. The lad has wing-nut ears.

STEPHENSON (still rolling pen in fingers): Come in, dear boy.

CANDIDATE: Sir! Candidate marches in and salutes awkwardly.

STEPHENSON: Sit down, dear boy.

CANDIDATE: Sir! Candidate sits down, hand folded in lap.

STEPHENSON: Do sit up straight, dear boy. This isn’t one of those namby-pamby medical schools, you know?

CANDIDATE (straightening up): Yes sir! I most certainly know this isn’t one of those namby-pamby medical schools, sir!

STEPHENSON (putting down pen): Very good. Pause as he reviews the papers in front of him. A small cloud of fumes arises the pen; Stilton’s glasses steam up. I see here it says you want to be a doctor. Can you tell us a bit more about why a bright young chap like you wants to be a doctor?

CANDIDATE: Sir! Candidate continues to focus his wing-nut ears on a spot exactly one yard above Stephenson’s head.

STILTON (still examining his fingernails): Perhaps you could expand on that a bit?

CANDIDATE: Sir! I want to help sick people get better, sir! Fake-Pearl looks up with quizzical amusement from his spring bulb catalogue, then looks down again.

STEPHENSON: Oh dear, dear boy, that doesn’t sound too promising. Not quite what we’re looking for these days. What we want these days is toughness, moral fibre. Do you know what we mean by moral fibre, dear boy?

CANDIDATE: Sir! I most certainly know what you mean by moral fibre, sir!

STILTON (one of his fingernails has now split; Stilton pulls relentlessly at it): That’s better. Perhaps you could expand a bit?

CANDIDATE: Sir! Pause as candidate remembers what he was meant to say. I want to strengthen up my moral fibre, sir. I want to come to medical school and get toughness training sir, special emotional resilience toughness training. If you are good enough to accept me, sir, I hope you’ll send me to Helmand Province, Helmand’s where I want to go, sir. I want to have a crack at the Afghan, sir!

STEPHENSON: That’s more like it, dear boy. Pause. You do realise, don’t you, that our Helmand training is no picnic? Live ammunition, friendly fire, that sort of thing. Some of the lads don’t make it.

CANDIDATE: Sir! Pause. That’s why I want to go to Helmand, sir! I want to learn how to survive, sir, not just under enemy fire but friendly fire too, sir! I want to learn to be super-resilient, sir!

STEPHENSON: Excellent, dear boy! Just the ticket. Report to barracks at 0600 hours next Monday. Dismiss!

CANDIDATE: Sir! Candidate stands up, salutes and marches out. Door closes. After a brief moment, a bell rings, the door opens to reveal a young lad standing on the threshold. The lad has a gap tooth.

STEPHENSON: Come in, dear boy…


why are you giving them ideas ?

it would surprise no one if the GMC insists we take our resilience training in Kabul followed by revalidation in ISIS controlled syria !

to be fair we will probably get more support than we get from back home.

Dr No is not giving them ideas, they are giving Dr No ideas! The Hansard transcript isn't available yet but Pulse had it's reporter on the spot:

Sadly (in that there is a need to write it) - a bloody brilliant post Dr No.

Pulse: “Doctors should expect to face a GMC investigation during their career as an ‘occupational hazard’ and build up resilience to deal with it similar to soldiers in Afghanistan, senior GMC executives have said.”

For those of us who work in the health professions our world is a very scary place, with a constant need to watch our backs. Human (we are human aren’t we?) errors of judgment are an unforgivable crime; in my case I was not ‘invited’ to attend my own tribunal and thus plead my case and was found guilty…

I consider myself lucky in that my colleagues stood by me, refused to suspend me and I continue to work in a job that I love. That said, I would leave tomorrow if finances allowed, for I no longer feel safe and feel the need to double-check every simple action I take. My job is now a war zone where I am considered a possible aggressor – whereas, in reality, I am a victim of the countless (aggressive) agencies who supposedly safeguard… to err is human; to forgive, decline!

Little wonder that now any (rare) errors remain hidden for the sake of survival – whereas in the past openness re same was met with understanding and lessons were learnt.

But your post is not about me, rather the draconian methods of the GMC and the resulting harm to the medical profession they supposedly serve.

Your good self: “We have seen and heard how the current regulatory system fails. It may even be intended to do so, as part of a plan to destroy the perceived - mostly by politicians and lawyers - power of the medical profession, but that is a stray into conspiracy theory country which can wait for another day. If CQC can’t quite cope, then with the GMC it’s NHA, no hope at all. Hopelessly overrun after adopting a policy of encouraging complaints from all and none, crippled by legalism, at once both incompetent and sadistic in its processes, it chases and catches minnows while letting the sharks get away. It preaches candour to others, but fails in candour itself. It preaches the duty of care to others, but itself fails in its duty of care. All in all, it is difficult to imagine how such a dysfunctional organisation came to be placed in a position of such draconian power in today’s Britain.

“THE ANSWER IS, IT WAS IMPOSED, BY LAWYERS AND POLITICIANS, …” and thereby hangs the crux. The medical profession can no longer operate autonomously, rather under the diktats of those who ‘manage’ from the ivory towers of ignorance.

God forbid any doctor who succumbs to the pressures of his/her home life, has mental health issues, is human – with all the frailties this brings, is subject to accusations from vexatious patients and is thus reported to the GMC for ftp issues – for his/her governing body will not protect him – rather hound him, even if with silence.

Resilience training – they [GMC] don’t understand at all – do they? (Doctors – and I would say all health professionals – the ability to learn from mistakes is who we are and makes us stronger, even safer.)

However it would appear the GMC – and I would argue every regulatory body – sees itself as above reproach – error in approach in treatment of its subjects is inconceivable – all are guilty until proved innocent…

…Where is the conscience for those who commit suicide whilst under their watch?

Anna - thank you for such a well-written heart-felt comment. Your humility as a non-medical health professional is itself humbling but we all know that while at the moment dysfunctional medical regulation is in the spot light, all healthcare regulation suffers from the same dysfunctionality. We are all in this together.

I am actually touched by this dialogue. Is it true that some people have the ability to face some tough situations, but it really doesn't count pretty much, cause there are some things that are difficult to manage, no matter if you are a strong person or not.

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