Two days ago Dr No got another fun email from the GMC. Unlike the recent email from O Chair – ‘I’m Terry, and I’m your buddy!’ – the latest email is GMC News, March 2015, e-bulletin edition. Dr No passed on the email’s ‘Forward to a friend’ link – if friends are forwarding GMC emails to you, you need to check out who your friends are, and if you are forwarding GMC emails to your friends, you need to check out whether you’ve actually got any friends. He also declined to click the link offering Dr No the opportunity to check his registration online, on the grounds that he already knew his registration status. He learnt, from the GMC News e-bulletin headline, that there was ‘Strong support for proposals to improve patient protection and public confidence in doctors’, which turned out to be another eight out of ten cat owners who replied story. He also learnt that the theme for this year’s GMC conference, hashtag #GMCconf for those who can’t – perhaps because they are busy forwarding GMC emails to friends – make the regulator’s annual gangbang in person, is ‘creating a culture of openness, safety and compassion’. Coming from an organisation which, at least in the conduct of its fitness to practice procedures, is known for its opacity, recklessness and indifference, this struck Dr No as a bit rich.
Only yesterday, the GMC issued another bizarre press release, this time confirming that new independent research had found that 100% of sampled fitness to practise decisions ‘are fair to doctors under investigation’. Putting aside the fact that, like perpetual motion, 100% all good doesn’t happen in the real world, recent coverage in the media and reports by the GMC itself all make it clear that the Stasi’s recent track record is about as far from all good as it is possible to be. Doctors under FtP investigation are dropping like flies, with getting on for a third of these deaths due to suicide. Numerous articles and comments on articles – see Dr No posts passim for links – have deplored the voraciousness of the Stasi’s appetite, and the barbarity of its processes. Yet only yesterday, Stilton tells us that FtP are ‘fair and consistent’. One smells a rat.
The independent research, funded by the GMC, was done by called an outfit called CAMERA. The Collaboration for the Advancement of Medical Education Research and Assessment may sound like a cousin to SPECTRE, the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, but it is in fact a jobbing sociological research unit based at Plymouth University that does work for the GMC from time to time. It seems it’s biggest commission is to write the sociological bible on revalidation (Heaven help us), but more recently it has been checking out whether the GMC’s Stasi goons have been following orders at all times, or as the report has it, ‘does decision-making in the GMC’s FtP procedures function as intended’? The unit being staffed by sociologists in the main, there had to be some mumbo-jumbo, so the report also looks into ‘what institutional and professional discourses shape decision-making in the FtP procedures and how is this manifested’. Dr No didn’t understand either. By the time these research questions reached the GMC press release, they became ‘The research…assessed the decisions made against the GMC’s published decision making guidance, and went onto [sic] evaluate the wording used in that guidance…’. The press release is here, the report here.
The report raises more questions than it answers. It also reveals the intensity of legal involvement on FtP process – lawyers, or the IHLT (In House Legal Team) do a lot of the work – but that will come as no surprise to GMC watchers. Dr No could remark on many other aspects and revelations in the report, but here today he intends to address only one question: to what extent does the report back up Stilton’s assertion that ‘GMC decisions are fair to doctors under investigation’.
You already know the answer: it doesn’t. Stilton is guilty of over-egging his commissioned research findings. Were he a doctor, and a proper regulator in existence, Absolutely Stilton might find himself absolutely in hot water. Nowhere in the report does it say FtP procedures and decisions are fair – do a simple text search for ‘fair’, and the answer is apparent. All it says is that, by and large, in the sample looked at, the GMC goons followed GMC orders, or as the GMC prefers, ‘The review found that the decisions made in all 187 cases were appropriate as well as being in line with the guidance and criteria set out for GMC investigation teams’. The goons did what they were told to do. So did Stasi officers in East Germany. They too followed orders, and did what they were told to do; but in neither case is there any evidence that their procedures and decisions were or are fair.