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Monday, October 10, 2011

Can you trust your doctor?

Maybe, like me, you missed this investigative programme on Channel 4 last week. If so, you may like to view it here, as I have done tonight. "GPs are among the most trusted and respected of all professions. They are our first port of call for most NHS treatment with 800,000 people visiting surgeries every day. But Dispatches reveals that failing doctors routinely slip through the system."

The programme shows very clearly that many GPs lack basic diagnostic competence, even with potentially very serious conditions like bowel cancer, breast cancer and angina. Although they are very highly paid and are accorded high status in our country, there are examples of doctors not following diagnostic guidelines in cases in which prompt diagnosis can mean the difference between life and premature death. Britain has one of the lowest cancer survival rates in Europe.

Even when two health professionals, a practice nurse and a doctor, turned whistleblowers about a GP who had fallen well behind with important patient results - blood tests and the like - the PCT (Primary Care Trust) concerned did not properly inform the patients concerned. The PCT's concern was clearly not patient safety.

Nor was the GMC's concern patient safety. (The GMC is the General Medical Council.) But then when is patient safety ever the GMC's concern? Regular readers of this blog will know that the GMC is a worse-than-useless 'regulator' and that in my opinion we would be better served by abolishing it than by attempting to reform such a travesty of a regulator. I think Trading Standards or Consumer Protection would be more appropriate, since these bodies have some concern for public safety, while the GMC is only concerned about the safety of doctors. If you click on the label GMC beneath this post, you will hopefully find on your screen a clutch of blogposts I have written over the years disparaging the GMC.

However serious the incidents of professional negligence, however many patients suffer and die before their time because of lousy doctors, nothing ever improves. I sometimes think of this as the proud motto of the NHS: We will never willingly improve. - Why don't you try to get something done about our flawed healthcare system and what is, effectively, the unaccountability of doctors? - After all, you, or someone you love, could be the next victim...