A Families guide to filing a complaint involving fitness to practise concerns about a medical professional in the United Kingdon.
I write this guide in the interest of ‘patient safety’ and to prevent a repeat of my experience. It is directed at all those wishing to pursue a Fitness To Practise complaint. I provide tips and experience of a process which left me deeply concerned about the regulators in this country. When things go wrong in the NHS you may end up fighting multiple organisations just to be heard. This is a ‘no holds barred’ account of my experiences of the various regulatory authorities I dealt with.
It details regulatory shortcomings and bias. It will include correspondence from the GMC, NMC, HCPC and CQC, their remit, their response and outcome when information is provided that should be actioned, acted upon to reduce harm and the risk to all patients. Having experienced first hand the effects a serious clinical incident has on a loved one I am mindful most Doctors and Nurses don’t set out to hurt or harm anyone during their daily duties but am also deeply concerned by the level of protection they receive when things do go wrong in the NHS. My experience is detailed, time-stamped with a chronology of factual evidence.
Some for whatever reason (GMC Doctors) when challenged, choose to change their account of events, their recollection, alter statements and produce multiple versions, clinical documents go missing, recollection especially where severe harm and injury occurs is retrospectively altered to protect reputations, careers and the Trusts involved always support them in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Why do so many people like me ‘the harmed’ pursue civil clinical negligence cases? This guide will explain from a patient perspective and why Doctors and Nurses must understand they are not above the law anymore. Officially, they must honour their code of ethics, the standards and code they signed up too in there profession. But in reality, it’s all about self-preservation, protection of careers and denial.
The disgraceful dark side of human nature rears its head, many families and patients suffer every day after serious incidents occur. See my Twitter feed @Chris_Rudland. Whistleblowers sometimes disclose concerns about ‘never events’, ‘patient safety concerns’ and ‘medical errors’. They in my experience, are ridiculed and suffer years of abuse, are unemployable and associated Healthcare Providers including CEO’s are usually and commonly at the top of the list of abusers. Some trusts pursue employment tribunals against WB’ers and some civil cases. Chris Day is a perfect example of a whistleblower who reported ‘patient safety’ concerns, who at great cost has been pursued by his local NHS Trust. At the latest count, his trust had spent £500K on legal fees.
Filing a complaint
The layperson, member of the public must understand they are going up against a UK government department and various organisations that self regulate. If that is understood, then one must ask themselves are they prepared for the long haul? Be warned, the language the regulator’s case examiners (CE) use, is different from our emotional driven challenge to find answers. Ours is a traumatised plea for help. They ignore emotionally charged subjective opinions and will rely only on their own GMC Clinical experts to resolve conflicts in the evidence base. They may even ignore cogent reliable evidence you provide as a member of the public. You as a family member, even an eye witness may be ignored or discredited. A survivor, patient or carer must understand before they commit to this process they need substantial expert clinical advice and opinion if they are to be heard by Investigation Officers (IO’s) and Case Examiners (CE’s).
Your case can be closed at the ‘preliminary stage’ by any IO. If that is understood, then continue. Otherwise, my advice is to stop and except you are not going to succeed with any regulator. 75% of all FTP cases were closed in 2018. Know the facts and statistics before you subject yourselves or family to a lengthy process, possible disappointment and further harm. Psychologically you may be harmed by extreme prejudice and bias in favour of the registrants.
My GMC experience
Those reading this may understand some of the information in their case is protected by ‘legal disclosure privileges.’ If you do not then I recommend you learn quickly or seek legal counsel and gain some understanding. Information you choose to disclose during any investigation process may be protected by ‘legal privilege.’ If you disclose such information, you may prejudice your own legal case or that of the GMC if it reaches the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS.)
Make sure you employ a certified/registered clinical speciality who understands your case and is qualified in the area of expertise you have concerns about. If you fail to provide sufficient information to the GMC, and report is not written in a way they understand it, your case will likely be closed in the ‘preliminary stage’ as a single clinical incident by the GMC with no further action.
75% of all cases from around 9,000 in 2018 were closed due to insufficient evidence or ‘a single clinical incident’ that the GMC deemed was below the threshold of an investigation. If you supply the GMC with all the available evidence they require, they will likely investigate your case as they have no other option. Personal layperson complaints go nowhere in my experience, the fact is you need some clinical specialist expert opinion to be heard. Many of my friends on Twitter and Facebook are a testimony to this in that I am the only one who ever succeeded in getting a case reopened and progress to the tribunal stage. Obviously the severity of the injury bears no relation as my case was closed once already.
During the course of my daughter’s investigation over three years, I provided the GMC with expert opinion from an ‘Acute Doctor’ who specialised in Emergency Medicine and was an Anaesthatist. This was initially discounted and ignored in the early stages of ‘full investigation’. I provided additional vital signs documented information from A&E. Cardiac Arrest audit records, MEWS printouts and ECG’s. Any darn thing I could get my hands on just so I would be listened too. Then ‘Clinical Records’ during her treatment and care, before they went missing from ICU. The GMC confirmed later, “they had not received the same information from the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust” so don’t be surprised if the Hospital Trust or Healthcare Provider withholds certain vital documents which may incriminate them in any way.
Be forensic in your approach, make friends with treating clinicians involved in the incident if you can find them. Ask for the CCTV footage in the care setting where the incident occurred, all my daughter’s CCTV went missing or was denied to have existed. I asked for it five times over three years. I filed complaints with the (IC) Information Commissioners, they said I never made a ‘Subject access request’ and refused to help me. This is very important, if you were in the line of sight of cameras and have been filmed, you have the right to ask to see it. Record (post-incident) all meetings with staff if you are allowed. Photograph everything that is presented to you in the early stages of any investigation. Record additional meetings with the Trust or Healthcare Provider including serious incident reports and follow up meetings. Don’t ever assume your account of events will be listened too then or later on, make sure any complaint is accompanied by the specialist clinical expert opinion that supports your complaint.
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