Feature Christmas 2011: Professional matters

Who gets struck off?

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7842 (Published 21 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7842
  1. Richard Wakeford, fellow
  1. 1Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge, UK
  1. richardwakeford{at}hotmail.com

Richard Wakeford analyses erasures and suspensions from the list of registered medical practitioners by country of primary medical qualification


Since its establishment in 1858, the General Medical Council (GMC) has been responsible for overseeing the professional conduct of doctors and for disciplining those whose standards are inadequate. Its remit and sanctions have changed over the years, and it is only relatively recently that clinical competence has come within its disciplinary ambit. The GMC publishes overview statistics of its procedures1 but not, so far as can be established, detailed classifications of who is suspended or erased from the list of registered medical practitioners (LRMP)—those given the current most serious penalties.

The LRMP can, however, be downloaded—for a fee—for analysis. Unfortunately, the database contains only the names of those erased or suspended, without listing the reasons for the penalty.

One study, conducted through laborious perusal of the GMC’s minutes and reports in the medical press, classified the sometimes tragic, often salacious, and occasionally scarcely credible reasons for disciplining the 584 doctors erased in the first 133 years of the GMC’s existence from 1858 to 1991, before the council’s “performance procedures” were instituted.2 It found, for instance, that the most common reason for the erasure of doctors who qualified in England was adultery with patients and that for doctors who qualified in Ireland the reason was often alcohol related. It also showed that erasure from the register would not necessarily terminate a career: 16 doctors had been erased twice, and two, three times. A contemporaneous book describes the history in sociolegal …

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