Intended for healthcare professionals


Hospital doctors face rising threat of suspension

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 08 July 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:72

Many suspensions are wasteful or unjust. So why is the health department opposing a bill to make suspension procedures fairer, asks Judy Jones

“Criminals who commit serious offences are treated better than suspended doctors,” declares the Conservative peer, Baroness Knight of Collingtree. “They can be locked out of their hospitals for years, without knowing what they are meant to have done wrong and without anyone speaking up for them.”

A bill being steered through the House of Lords by Lady Knight seeks to remedy the “grave injustices” that she and many others see in the majority of suspensions in England. Many welcome her attempts to reform the cumbersome and labyrinthine procedures that these suspensions often trigger.

Five years ago, the case of Dr Bridget O'Connell prompted a stinging reprimand of the NHS Executive by the Commons public accounts committee of MPs (BMJ 1995;311:527). The consultant paediatrician had been suspended for nearly 12 years on full pay, at a cost to the taxpayer of £600000 ($900000), when in May 1994 all allegations against her were withdrawn.

Alan Milburn, then a Labour backbencher and now health secretary, described the O'Connell affair as “an …

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