News

Half of doctors investigated over Mid Staffs have faced no action, says GMC

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f872 (Published 08 February 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f872
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

Four doctors involved with Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, three of them in management roles, are facing a fitness to practise hearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

The news emerged after publication of the report of the public inquiry into lessons to be learnt from “appalling” care experienced by patients at the trust, in what has been called the biggest scandal to hit the NHS.1

The inquiry, by Robert Francis QC, uncovered what he described as “a story of appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” in a system that “ignored the warning signs and put corporate self interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety.” He said the evidence had shown “that an unhealthy and dangerous culture pervaded not only the trust . . . but the system of oversight and regulation as a whole and at every level.”

The prime minister, David Cameron, asked in parliament why no doctors or nurses had been struck off over failures in care at Stafford Hospital. The General Medical Council’s chief executive, Niall Dickson, had told the inquiry that “there must have been significant numbers of doctors who metaphorically walked on the other side of the ward.”

The GMC said that it had opened investigations relating to 42 doctors at Mid Staffs. Four doctors would face a hearing “soon,” although no dates had yet been fixed, it said.

One doctor has agreed to undertakings on practice, and 22 have received warning letters giving them advice. In 21 cases no action has been taken against the doctor. (Some doctors had more than one case against them.)

Dickson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the GMC was “taking action without fear or favour, but it obviously has to be based on evidence and within the constraints of our legal system.”

The GMC would not say whether the charges related to failure to raise concerns about patients’ safety. But Dickson told MPs on the House of Commons Health Committee in 2011 that the GMC cases included some where the doctors’ own practice was blameless but where they should have reported what they saw.

Cameron said, “Too many doctors kept their heads down instead of speaking out when things went wrong.” He added, “The Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Medical Council need to explain why, so far, no one has been struck off.”

The Nursing and Midwifery Council said that 10 nurses were facing a hearing and that one had been suspended from practice on an interim basis.

GMC guidance issued after the Mid Staffs saga came to light puts UK doctors under an explicit duty to take action if they see that patients are being denied basic care, such as help with feeding and washing.2 Earlier guidance, from 2006, made it clear that patient safety came first and that doctors must protect patients from any risk of harm caused by a colleague’s conduct.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f872

Footnotes

  • See also:

  • News: Francis recommends fitness test for senior managers but stops short of regulation (BMJ 2013;346:f856, doi:10.1136/bmj.f856)

  • News: Recommendations of the Francis report (BMJ 2013;346:f854, doi:10.1136/bmj.f854)

  • News: Inability to detect failures at Mid Staffs means it could happen again, Francis concludes (BMJ 2013;346:f853, doi:10.1136/bmj.f853)

  • News: Organisations not individual people are to blame, says Francis (BMJ 2013;346:f849, doi:10.1136/bmj.f849)

  • News: Doctors must accept some portion of responsibility for events at Mid Staffordshire hospital, BMA says (BMJ 2013;346:f848, doi:10.1136/bmj.f848)

  • News: NHS must adopt a culture of “zero tolerance” for patient harm, Francis report says (BMJ 2013;346:f847, doi:10.1136/bmj.f847)

  • News: Doctors accused of keeping their heads down at Mid Staffs trust (BMJ 2013;346:f840, doi:10.1136/bmj.f840)

  • Feature: Who knew what, and when, at Mid Staffs? (BMJ 2013;346:f726, doi:10.1136/bmj.f726)

  • Feature: Did the government ignore criticisms of the NHS in the run up to the Mid Staffs scandal? (BMJ 2013;346:f652, doi:10.1136/bmj.f652)

References