Intended for healthcare professionals


The General Medical Council and doctors’ financial interests

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 28 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h474
  1. Kate Adlington, clinical fellow,
  2. Kamran Abbasi, deputy editor,
  3. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief
  1. 1The BMJ, London WC1H 9JR, UK
  1. Correspondence to: K Adlington kadlington{at}

A failure of regulation

Doctors are not supposed to allow personal financial gain to influence or appear to influence their clinical decisions. And in the UK, the public relies on the General Medical Council to pursue claims that doctors may have behaved unethically. But an investigation by The BMJ has found that the GMC failed to act when a leading insurance firm presented it with evidence of widespread payment of “incentives” to doctors in return for referrals to private hospital groups.1 These inducements were not disclosed to patients and seem to contravene GMC guidance.2 3 Some London based doctors benefited by tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of pounds.

The Competition and Markets Authority closed loopholes in the law last year, but the GMC has still not responded formally to the evidence presented to it in 2012. A senior doctor who works for the insurance firm and brought the evidence to The BMJ said, “It’s a sad day for the medical profession when a competition regulator has had to issue an order … because our own regulator [the GMC] has failed to do so.”

The GMC says that it didn’t receive a formal complaint against individual doctors and so could not investigate further. Its Good Medical Practice does set standards on financial arrangements and conflicts of interest. …

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