Ten Ways In Which
The General Medical Council (GMC) Has Failed Patients And Doctors
The General Medical Council (GMC) regulates British doctors.
It decides whether or not they are fit to practise. And it lays down rules and
guidelines detailing how they should practise and how they should treat their
But if the GMC exists to protect the health of patients and the
integrity and reputation of the medical profession (and, if it does not, then
why does it exist?) it has failed both doctors and patients.
just ten examples of its lamentable failure.
1. The GMC does nothing to
limit the enormous control the drug companies have over medical education. The
GMC has stood by while the medical profession has been taken over by an
industry. As I wrote in The Medicine Men in 1976, `a profession which
takes its instructions from an industry can no longer call itself a profession'.
2. The GMC allows doctors to over-prescribe drugs such as antibiotics
and tranquillisers without publishing adequate guidelines and without punishing
the thousands of doctors who recklessly over-prescribe. The over-prescribing of
tranquillisers has led to the biggest addiction problem in Britain. The
over-prescribing of antibiotics has contributed to the incidence of antibiotic
resistant infections in hospitals.
3. The GMC does nothing to ensure
that doctors only provide patients with the best possible advice. Last year a GP
was reported to have `prescribed' meat for his patients. I made a formal
complaint about him to the GMC on the grounds that meat is a recognised cause of
cancer. (The scientific evidence for this is published in my book Food for
Thought and on this website). Despite this evidence the GMC refused to take
action against the GP.
4. The GMC has made no criticism of the way the
NHS (the main source of health care in Britain) is mismanaged by politicians and
administrators. There is little or no point in the GMC admonishing doctors for
breaches of medical etiquette when the environment in which they work is
dangerously and criminally inadequate. It is simply not good enough for the GMC
to say that the medical environment in which doctors operate is not its concern.
That is akin to a GP treating patients poisoned by a pollutant and doing nothing
to eradicate the pollutant on the grounds that it isn't his responsibility. If
the GMC is to be taken seriously it must tackle serious issues.
GMC has done nothing to prevent doctors taking advantage of the existence of two
different health systems (the NHS and private care) in order to make money.
Thousands of British doctors work both for the NHS and for their own interests.
Many of them deliberately make their NHS waiting lists long so that they can
attract more private patients. It is improper and unethical for doctors who work
for the NHS to offer private care to the same pool of patients. The GMC should
interfere and stop this abuse.
6. The GMC should do more to prevent the
abuse of minority groups of patients, such as those who are mentally ill and
those who are elderly. Doctors who withhold treatment and allow patients to die
just because they are old (a common practice in NHS hospitals) are not punished
by the GMC. They should be. By refusing to acknowledge the existence of this
problem, and by refusing to do anything about it, the GMC is ignoring the needs
of patients and abandoning its own fundamental responsibility.
GMC should punish doctors who work in hospitals which have higher than average
levels of antibiotic resistant infection. Many British hospitals are dirty. This
is why antibiotic resistant infections are higher in Britain than almost
anywhere else in the world. Neither administrators nor nurses will take
responsibility for this tragic state of affairs and so doctors must. The GMC
should question and monitor doctors whose hospitals are dirty or which have a
high incidence of MRSA infection, and should punish those doctors who do not
insist that the appropriate changes are made in cleaning and nursing practices.
8. The GMC should make it clear that medical confidentiality is of
primary importance to the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship. Any
doctor who is guilty of a breach of medical confidentiality should be struck off
the medical register. You can't be a little bit confidential any more than you
can be a little bit pregnant. Doctors should be instructed not to share
information with social workers, policemen, politicians, bureaucrats or anyone
else who isn't directly concerned with the health of the patient concerned.
Politicians and judges who attempt to overrule the principle of medical
confidentiality should be advised that the GMC will not accept interference in
9. The GMC should look carefully at some of the more bizarre
medical fashions. For example, it is surely wrong that surgeons should remove
the breasts of healthy women or should perform operations on patients suffering
from nothing more than obesity caused by overeating. And the Government's
enthusiasm for vaccination does not seem to be entirely supported by convincing
scientific evidence. Currently fashionable vaccination programmes may do more
harm than good. Doctors who advocate or promote vaccination programmes should be
investigated by the GMC.
10. The GMC should make a clear statement about
how medical research should be conducted. For example, the evidence clearly
proves that reliance on animal experiments is one of the factors responsible for
the current endemic of drug induced disease. One in six patients in hospital is
there because they have been made ill by a doctor. This is unacceptable. The
Department of Health has been quite unable to produce any evidence supporting
the use of animal experiments in medical research. The GMC should make it clear
that drugs should be properly tested before being made available for general
prescribing and that animal testing has no place in the development process for
new drugs. Doctors who support or advocate animal testing should be investigated
by the GMC.
The GMC is a multi million pound
bureaucracy with plush offices in central London. And that's about it. I believe
it is self-serving and far too pro-establishment and that for all the good it
does for patients and doctors it could be replaced by a single clerk equipped
with a computer and a website. Patients and doctors deserve (and need) much
Vernon Coleman is a registered medical practitioner and his
name is listed on the GMC's General Practitioner list. (For the record, he has
never been admonished or criticised by the General Medical Council.) He is also
Britain's leading medical author. His books, which include international
bestsellers such as Bodypower, How To Stop Your Doctor Killing You
and Food for Thought have sold over 2 million copies in the UK. They have
been translated into 23 languages and are sold in over 50 countries.
Copyright Dr Vernon Coleman December 2006