Only yesterday, Dr No was working on a post noting that the GMC had still not published its internal review of doctors who died while under Fitness to Practice investigation. He noted that publication was originally slated for July 2014, then November 2014, and, as of earlier this week, possibly sometime in 2015. He even noted that at the very time the GMC is consulting on doctors’ duty of candour, it was showing a striking lack of candour in its own conduct. The last sentence of the first paragraph of the post said ‘In the absence of certainty, it is not clear whether the review is still incomplete, or is complete, but currently too hot to handle, with Stilton’s PR goons waiting – sorry – for a good day to bury bad news’. It now seems they were: the review has been published today, the last Friday before Christmas.
Dr No didn’t publish his post yesterday for two reasons. The first was the inverse of ‘a good day to bury bad news’ – it was a bad day to ask awkward but important questions. The post would get forgotten over Christmas, and be old news by the New Year, something that may still happen – but then we can always return to it in good time. The second, and more important, reason was sensitivity to both doctors currently under FtP investigation, and the friends and families of doctors who have died while under investigation. It’s Christmas, FFS, the season of goodwill. It takes a particularly toxic – or perhaps not, perhaps they are all like that – lawyerly GMC type to dump such difficult material in the public domain less than a week before Christmas. Now that it is unavoidably out, Dr No expresses his sympathy to any so affected who may happen to read this.
What the timing shows is the GMC still doesn’t get it, still doesn’t care. This is not entirely surprising. The organisation is malignly legalistic, not to mention infested with lawyers, and we know the legal profession is second only to that of chief executives in harbouring psychopaths (if you fancy a bit of light relief spotting psychopathic traits in lawyers you know, look no further than here). Even a quick read of the review, available here, reveals many examples of insensitive uncaring overly legal behaviour typical of the conduct to be expected of both individual psychopaths and psychopathic organisations. In passing we might also note another psychopathic trait, covering up the truth. A 2012 FoI reply suggested the GMC was aware of only small numbers of suicides (a number of three, cunningly worded, was mentioned); the review makes it clear the Council knew about far more, perhaps as many as ten times more.
This over-reliance on legalism points to a greater, even fundamental, flaw in the GMC machinery. Law is by its nature a binary apparatus (innocent/guilty, find for the plaintiff/find for the defendant), incapable of comprehending subtlety. However complex the problem, the answer has to be yes or no. This binary nature is right there literally at the top or bottom of the page, in the GMC’s current slogan, ‘Working with Doctors Working for Patients’, and gives rise to the constant harping on by the Council about the paramountcy of protecting patients. Sorry, guys, it ain’t that simple. Of course protecting patients is always important, often vital, but what you have forgotten is that sick doctors are also patients. Sick doctors, including those caught up in the GMC’s ghastly machinery – and many caught in the machinery are sick – deserve exactly the same decency and care that any patient deserves. They deserve the same protection from harm the GMC ordains for all patients. That the GMC should then fail those patients by not protecting them, and, far, far worse, actively engage in harmful conduct, sometimes even to death, is a disgrace.
There is but the tiniest sliver of hope. Though most doctors working for the GMC will adopt either the Nuremberg defence (just doing my job) or the Denning defence (best to bang up a few innocents than let the bad ones go free) to defend their conduct, it is clear from quotes in the review that some GMC affiliated doctors are at the very least uncomfortable with the GMC’s conduct. These are the cracks in the cogs of Stilton’s apparatus. Where there be cracks, they can get bigger, and where there be big cracks, machines can break up. Time, then, to start working on those cracks. It will be intriguing, when the time comes, to see how the GMC, arch defender of whistleblowing, responds to whistleblowing from within its own ranks.