13th January 2022, 15:45
The General Medical Council is currently processing six referrals made to it regarding doctors at the Health Authority.
Allegations of preventable harm and deaths occurring at the GHA were brought to light last year by Dr. Derek Burke. He has since withdrawn his claim against the GHA and the Ministry of Health has announced plans to reset, restart and recover the Heath Authority.
We asked the GMC about Dr. Burke’s allegations and it told us that it is “aware of ongoing concerns at the Health Authority, which it continues to monitor via regular contact with the relevant Suitable Person.” The GMC’s powers of investigation are only applicable to doctors as opposed to systemic concerns.
During the last five years, the number of annual referrals to the GMC regarding doctors at the GHA has risen. In 2021, the GMC received nine referrals regarding doctors at the GHA.
In the last five years, two referrals have been promoted to an investigation and have then been closed with no further action, fifteen have been closed at triage and six are being processed at present.
Referrals can come from various sources including patients, members of the public, doctors and employers.
The GMC points out some GHA doctors have been referred multiple times over this period, so the total referrals is not equivalent to the total number of doctors referred.
It however hasn't wanted to provide details on the nature of the referrals saying such low numbers might risk identifying doctors or complainants. The GMC receives over 7,000 individual referrals a year, the majority of which do not meet the threshold for investigation or are closed with no further action, so a referral is not a definitive indication of cause for GMC action or that a doctor’s fitness to practice is impaired.
Measures to create further layers of accountability at the GHA are being introduced.
Plans announced late last year, include quarterly formal accountability meetings between the Ministry & the GHA and the creation of three formal subcommittees of the GHA Board focusing on: Quality of Care, Workforce & Finance.
The appointment of a Director General was also part of changes planned for the GHA. This week Dr. Patrick Geoghegan started in the role as interim Director General. This is one of the first moves made in the Government’s seven step plan for the Health Authority. Plans that many will, undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on.