Patient Safety - Reality Check

Richard Neale

28 year trail of misery for patients

Could it be that gynaecologists are able to stay under the radar year after year because their injured patients are more embarrassed to complain about the subject matter?

When they caught on to him in one place he went to another. After twenty years he became a fellow of the London based Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. In 1990 he became director of their maternity unit. When he proved to be a problem there they gave him a handsome severance package and a clean reference to avoid disciplinary procedures.

In 1995 the  General Medical Council (GMC) failed to respond when the Leicester Royal Infirmary expressed concerns about him. Three years after that the GMC finally announced it was considering two complaints about him. Publicity about that encouraged other patients and more than 60 women came forward with complaints.

Doctors overseeing doctors?

This and a few other cases raised questions about how effective the GMC was at regulating the medical profession. For instance, they allowed him to practice medicine in the UK in 1985 after having been banned from practicing in Canada.

A spokesman for the GMC said: "There are 100,000 doctors working in the NHS and we simply can't monitor them all, all of the time." They blamed local hospitals and health trusts who should monitor the performance of their caregivers on a day to day basis. They said they can act only if someone complains.

In England they concluded that healthcare professionals are not reliable overseers of other healthcare professionals and reformed their system establishing a separate entity to take over adjudication for them (more at reform, another page on this site).

In the USA it is all still in the hands of state medical boards that governed by doctors. What would it take to get governments in the USA to see the light (see OSMB and/or Complain, both pages on this site)?