Views & Reviews In and out of hospital

Confessions of a collaborator

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 22 March 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:640
  1. James Owen Drife, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology Leeds (j.o.drife{at}

    Listen, I was just doing the regional specialist training committee a favour. They're good people. They care about trainees. I happened to be there when they asked for volunteers, that's all. I didn't even know what “MTAS” stood for.

    Sure, I smelled a rat when shortlisting was postponed. Yes, I could have walked away when they said there were 500 candidates. But I felt committed. We all did. So we spent the best part of a week on line, scoring the answers to those dumb questions. It drove us crazy, but we met the deadline.

    Afterwards we felt dirty. But by then, young doctors were coming for interview. We couldn't let them down. Hey, meeting them was a breath of fresh air. It restored our will to live. Too bad they have to wait so long for the results. We'll go back and find the ones we missed. We'll sort it out. That's what doctors do.

    Colleagues are saying we should have boycotted it, taken a stand, caused chaos. They're calling us collaborators. That's rich, coming from a profession that's been collaborating en masse for 20 years. In the 1980s the government set out to take us over. We let them do it.

    I can remember when the Hospital Consultants Committee took decisions. Did anyone start a protest march when the managers eased us out? No. And these days, when politicians reorganise general practice, do doctors write to the papers? No sir. We shrug and let them get on with it. We prefer seeing patients.

    So when they set up new bodies to replace key functions of the royal colleges, who resisted? Not the colleges or faculties, all 27 of them with their 28 opinions. Certainly not the quango-loving doctors who jumped on the bandwagon. I heard them, you know, in trendy committees, patronising their clinical colleagues. It made me sick.

    I could name names. But so could you. We all read them in the journals, those non-practising doctors being pompous about medical scandals. Or maybe we stopped reading and turned the page.

    It had to end, and now it has. We turned on our own young. The public can't believe it. The politicians are scared. This is when people start shooting collaborators. Let's hope they shoot the right ones. They're spoilt for choice.

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