Intended for healthcare professionals


Whistleblowing in the NHS

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 01 May 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2300

Misuse of disciplinary action against doctors

Kim Holt may need to be more specific that her concern is the misuse of disciplinary action against doctors. I agree there may be benefit from a further inquiry into this issue. I also agree that Robert Francis missed an opportunity to 'clear the air' (1).

Her quote from Hooper is pertinent: "An employer might use the process of making an allegation ... about a doctor’s fitness to practise as an act of retaliation against a doctor because he or she raised concerns, or, simply, as an inappropriate alternative to dealing with the matter in-house.” Some concerns are raised for dubious motives. Trusts do not always react appropriately (2). There may be a lack of independence in disciplinary proceedings (3). There is also evidence of some complacency about medical suspensions (4). The regulatory system has failed in some high profile cases (eg. 5) including Kim Holt's herself.

(2) Clinical governance can become oppressive BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 15 March 2007)
(3) Independence in disciplinary proceedings against doctors BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 24 January 2012)
(5) David Southall: anatomy of a wrecked career BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 16 May 2012)

Competing interests: I have been suspended twice in my career

08 May 2015
Duncan B Double
Consultant Psychiatrist
Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
Victoria House, 28 Alexandra Road, Lowestoft NR32 1PH