GMC panellist was banned for not disclosing links with ScientologistsBMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c1766 (Published 30 March 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1766
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Further information on this Freedom of Information request, its
denial by the GMC and the subsequent appeals to the Information
Commissioner and finally to the Information Tribunal, can be found at:
and the files themselves, which have been released by order of the
Information Tribunal, can be found at:
At the time of his GMC hearing, Dr Cosgrove wrote to the BMJ alleging
the presence of Scientology influence on the GMC's Fitness to Practise
This evidence now proves that he was correct.
Questions which remain unanswered by the GMC include:
- Did they contact the doctors affected back in 2004, or only now
they have been forced to release the information? Didn't they have a duty
to contact the affected doctors at the time?
- Did the legal review of cases take place at the time the events
occurred, or only now?
- What background checks (if any) did the GMC perform on FTP
Some of these matters are the subject of Freedom of Information
queries currently in progress, which can be found at:
I made the Freedom of Information request which led to the release of this information.
Competing interests: No competing interests
There are a few points that arise here. I checked the date to see if
it were an April Fool and it would certainly fit the bill – outrageous and
unbelievable behaviour ascribed to a prim and sanctimonious bunch of
placemen and timeservers, much given to finger pointing and censorious
Why the secrecy ? What good does it do or rather what harm does it do
if this leaks out reluctantly and under pressure as it has done here? The
GMC is haven of awards and honours and I note that the Chief Executive
Finlay Scott CBE, chief exec even at the time these events occurred,
netted a very well deserved CBE. I am sure that Dr Colman Archer will
wonder why details of this inquiry were not leaked to the press by a GMC
functionary – and enthusiastically published by the press as details of
her case and travails were – peddled to the popular press avid for every
detail. Even Prof J Owen Drife of this very journal was found unfit to be
a panellist via a very public hearing involving references. So why are the
lay panellists treated differently to the doctors they sit in judgement
on? In short, the public and profession expect them to be fit for the post
that they have been appointed to. If the GMC did not feel that it was in
anyone’s best interests to have a lay member scientologist hearing cases,
psychiatric or not, then they should state clearly what they are doing to
prevent a recurrence. They appoint the panellists and so they have
complete control over the choice and presumably have to take the blame
when their choice is found to be the cause of extra expenditure.
The doctor administrators who run the GMC for their political
masters, are they not bound by their own code of conduct ? Does not the
GMC code of practice state when there has been a mistake there should be
full disclosure ? “you should treat your colleagues fairly and with
respect.” I could understand if there is a special rule – oh not when the
GMC make a mistake, that rule doesn’t count at all. Of course we should be
told. The panellists could even have a sign in front of them – “all rules
I can’t find this ever being discussed at GMC council by the simple
expedient of trawling through the minutes of their meeting. Either it was
discussed secretly and so we don’t know what the council gets up to, or
else the council were kept in the dark as well. It could be they don’t
regard this as suitable material for a council meeting, or else the
faceless bureaucrats who run the Council do not regard it as suitable
And finally how much did this cost ? One has the cost of the
informal hearing which could easily cost £10 000 a day for each side. I am
not suggesting of course that the lay member actually paid this sum as
uninsured doctors have to, as it would be unfair. However resources
costing this amount of money could easily be racked up if keen lawyers are
involved. And secondly there is the on-cost of reviewing further cases as
this could have been mitigated by public disclosure in that he would have
been a lay member in practice for a shorter period. Instead a path of
secrecy was chosen and this has maximised and not minimised further costs
of more reviews. So there is a case for charging the person who took this
decision as this is the step that cost the money.
I note further this was taken to the Information Tribunal, where the
GMC argued that it was not in the public interest to have to disclose.
This is a breath catching standpoint. It may not be in the GMC workers
immediate interests – no awards, no honours, no little government quangos
to populate when one is retired, but it is obviously in the interests of
those who may be wronged by this. And that presumably is why they are
writing to all the lawyers involved in other cases. And fees ! and Waste!
Further subscribers fees are spent in trying to prevent them finding out
how their money goes.
Appointed members of any kind on Council seem to be incapable of
preventing the gross squandering of funds with which they are entrusted.
Has the GMC learnt anything from this ? We certainly have. Oliver
COI Oliver Dearlove is in receipt of a warning from the GMC – drink
driving. He was advised not to appeal through the fitness to practice
process as an ex-panellist opined; “everyone knows you don’t get a fair
hearing”. We can now see how right he was.
Competing interests: No competing interests