3 days popular7 days popular1 month popular3 months popular

No Doctor, No Matter How Senior They Are, Can Be Untouchable

Even very senior should be subject to the same codes of conduct argues whistleblower

No , no matter how senior they are, can be untouchable, argues in this week’s BMJ.

Even very senior doctors “should be subject to the same codes of conduct, and to the same sanctions when they are breached,” he says.

In an article published today, argues that the medical establishment “is no different” to other organisations that have covered up misconduct – the BBC over , the Catholic church over child abuse by priests, and the over their failings at the Hillsborough disaster.

He points to several cases he has been involved in, saying: “Once when I raised concerns at a meeting at the Department of Health about a senior doctor, I was even told that he was untouchable.”

The General Medical Council investigates serious allegations about doctors, “but in my experience it will often refuse to investigate the most senior doctors,” he says. For example, medical director Professor Peter Richards returned to chair GMC hearings after failing to report financial misconduct by another doctor.

In another case, Professor Peter Collins did not face a public hearing for claiming false qualifications, yet six junior doctors were removed from the medical register for similar misconduct.

And despite legislation to protect whistleblowers, Wilmshurst describes how an NHS trust and a health authority “spent more than £2.5m in legal fees” to prevent illegal activity by a senior doctor being revealed.

“If we are genuinely going to put patients first nobody, no matter how senior they are, can be untouchable,” concludes Wilmshurst. “However, this will only happen when we have a cultural change in healthcare with promotion of openness and real protection for whistleblowers, plus reform of the English libel laws to provide a genuine public interest defence.”


Personal View: “No doctor should be untouchable”,
Peter Wilmshurst
BMJ 2013;346:f2338 doi:10.1136/bmj.f2338