A number of NHS hospital trusts are neglecting to share vital information regarding complaints about doctors with other trusts and the General Medical Council, leading to doctors who make repeated mistakes slipping under the radar.
According to the BBC, 13 hospital trusts had failed to inform the GMC of complaints against doctors – including some cases which ended in compensation payouts. Of these trusts, half also failed to neglect other trusts of complaints against doctors they were planning to employ.
One of the trusts who responded to the BBC’s freedom of information request, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, had 42 doctors who had been the subject of more than 2 complaints. Of these 42 doctors, 27 were involved in complaints that resulted in compensation. None of the doctors were reported to the GMC
As trusts are responsible for disciplining doctors who have been the subject of complaints, there is no legal obligation to inform future employers or the GMC.
However, the ‘responsible officer’ for a trust is ‘professionally obliged’ to let the GMC know about any concerns, including complaints, regarding their doctors.
Ignoring this duty can allow for doctors who make repeated mistakes to slip through the net and continue practising unhindered, despite some obvious concerns about their competence. This, of course, could lead to medical negligence.
The BBC reported on one such instance of this. Dr. Nikolaos Papanikolaou was struck off the medical register following an investigation into the death of Surinder Venables. It was found that Dr. Papanikolaou perforated Ms. Venables’ uterus while carrying out a minor operation to remove cysts.
Rather than raising the alarm, Dr. Papanikolaou is alleged to have missed his mistake; a mistake that cost Ms. Venables her life after subsequent operations and a cardiac arrest.
Prior to the incident, Dr. Papanikolaou was subject a multitude of complaints, including failing to carry out a caesarean on a high-risk patient, leading to a stillbirth.
None of the allegations or complaints against Dr. Papanikolaou were reported to the GMC by the hospital trust; instead, it was left to the father of another patient who received poor care to contact the GMC, who then began their investigation.
The failure to report complaints about doctors to the GMC and other trusts is worrying; it could allow doctors with repeated failures to continue working without proper reprimand, or to a trust employing an incompetent doctor with no forewarning. While it is the responsibility of the individual trust to pass judgement on a doctor, it surely makes sense for that trust to be armed with the full facts before passing that judgement?
If you feel you’ve been the victim of poor care that has caused you undue harm, get in touch with the medical negligence specialists at PH Solicitors by calling 0161 785 3500.
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