Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Observations Body Politic

A discriminating judgment

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 14 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a809

Rapid Response:

Age discrimination

There is age discrimination if you enter St. Paul's Cathedral or get
a Senior Citizen's discount at a London Theatre ticket office or on a
British Railway train.

It is a privilege that doctors over 65 years are given a discount for
being "registrants" of or subscribers to the General Medical Council and
are relieved from paying any more money. This also goes for the British
Medical Association and at one time doctors over a certain age would
become "Honorary Members" of the Medical Defence Union and Medical
Protection Society.

A good number of British-born and bred doctors who are so registered
are not on pensions, you know. Very many have spent their lives gaining
great experience abroad and are quite surprised they are regarded by the
NHS uncivil non-medical servants as "pariah". They just "don't fit in" to
their concept of a socialist medical service.

At age 65 a General Practitioner is usually a very experienced
doctor. That is, if daily he has seen very many patients, as they come,
and not by slow delayed appointments.

These doctors are no longer wanted. Not even as Locums. Their possible
contribution is not even questioned by a Medical Officer, about their
experience, their greater or lesser ability but are presented by "an
officer" with a large booklet on "How to be a doctor!" and told they then
must undergo further training.

Since the General Medical Council now seems to have a preponderance
of legal opinion on its Board, (or is it now "A Court"?) some such member
has found another interpretation of the wording of the 1983 Medical Act
and has acted too precipitately.

"There should be no Age Discrimination" but this surely related to
ability and the right to practise medicine. Nothing to do with Honorary
positions within that Council.

It then only needs a small "codicil" or added explanation and the
whole matter can be put aside.

Doctors have earned their "honorary position" have they not? How
can they be "struck off" so arbitrarily without having committed any
offence? Quite frankly, it becomes defamatory and surely actionable? Let
us have a legal opinion on that if they want something to do.

Graeme Catto's new General Medical Council is entitled to have Legal
Opinion, but it should be staffed surely by doctors, not half by lawyers.
There would seem to be a preponderance of the latter on board.

Lawyers have rarely been doctors' friends so watch out. They'll take

Cave canem!

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

05 September 2008
31 BALMORAL PARK, #18-33