Being in London for the meeting tonight having come down early because of meeting Ofgem I attended the GMC FPC hearing earlier today.
There are a number of odd things about this particular GMC process.
The first is that they seem to concentrate on relatively minor issues rather than the major issue of doing harm to patients (particularly babies) through dangerous research.
Secondly, they are appear to be trying to gag the patients and their parents. There is no reason for the parents to be anonymous. Lawrence Alexander (one of the patients) is now 20 he has done loads of interviews with the media and published his story on the web. The theory of anonymity is to protect the children. The reality is that it only protects the professionals who make errors (intentionally or otherwise).
I had referred the research to the GMC to ensure that it has been formally referred. I have now referred the absence of action to the Council for Regulatory Healthcare Excellence
which is the watchdog of health watchdogs.
They responded promptly and have promised an urgent substantive response whereas the GMC have just said they will respond later.
There are two underlying systematic issues that are important within this current context.
The first is that the GMC are claiming a continuing responsibility for regulation within the medical profession. I am really very uncomfortable with their behaviour on this issue. The lawyers acting for the complainants basically don't act for the complainants they act for the GMC. There is a danger here that things get left out of the process although to be fair the CHRE acts as a backstop. However, for equality of arms the people making references should be in a stronger position to guide the complaint process. There are clearly systematic problems here and the GMC are not making their case for a retention of this role very well.
The second is that there are proposals to lessen the amount of ethical control on research. The current system has clearly failed. There needs to be a more effective mechanism for investigation to ensure that people are not treated as they have been (for people read particularly babies). I am not sure that removing the local research ethics committees is a good idea.