Doctors refuse to pay GMC direct debit in Bawa-Garba protest

Doctors protesting over the GMC's handling of the Bawa-Garba case have urged the medical profession to join them in an act of 'civil disobedience' by refusing to pay their fees to the regulator via direct debit.

Dr David Nicholl and Dr Jenny Vaughan protest outside GMC headquarters
Dr David Nicholl and Dr Jenny Vaughan protest outside GMC headquarters

The protesters, who gathered outside GMC headquarters in London this week to mark the 6th anniversary of the creation of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), have threatened to pay the regulator with post-dated cheques. A cake the group tried to present to the GMC carried the words #LearnNotBlame.

In a letter delivered to GMC chief executive Charlie Massey, they warned: 'We, like the majority of the medical profession, have now lost all confidence in the GMC as a medical regulator. That is why today, on this the 6th anniversary of the MPTS, we are calling for all doctors who are registered with the GMC to cancel their direct debits and pay with post-dated cheques.'

The group say they will continue this 'legal act of civil disobedience' until Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba is restored to the medical register, and the House of Commons health select committee investigates concerns about the handling of Dr Bawa-Garba's case, and further concerns raised by the protesters about the regulator's handling of cases involving sex offenders and doctors who have carried out fraudulent research.

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They also demanded that the GMC be stripped of its power to appeal against MPTS decisions - a move endorsed by health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt following publication of the Williams review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare as the protest took place.

Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off by the GMC after it won a High Court appeal to overturn an MPTS ruling that she should face a 12-month suspension.

The GMC has accepted that the case has had a huge impact on doctors' trust in it, but has said it had no choice but to appeal against the tribunal decision because it took a less severe view of Dr Bawa-Garba's actions than an earlier court case. The GMC has also said it will not accept post-dated cheques.

Consultant neurologist Dr David Nicholl, who led the protest with GP and hospital colleagues, told a GMC representative on the day of the protest: 'I will be kicking up a fuss. I want to pay - I am not saying I won't pay. What I want is the health select committee to look at the way the GMC has looked at this case. This is the only way I have of protesting the GMC's actions.'

GMC fees

Dr Nicholl has sought legal advice and believes he can choose to pay his fees via alternative methods.

However, a GMC spokesman said: 'We have a responsibility to keep costs down and ensure that the fees paid by all 280,000 registrants are kept as low as possible in future. That’s enabled us to reduce the fee for all doctors this year, and apply further discounts to those doctors in their early years on the register.

‘One of the ways we do that is by processing fee payments as cost-effectively as possible. We recognise that doctors may prefer to pay their fees in different ways and so we accept payment by cheque, card, direct debit, internet banking, bank transfer, bank draft or postal order.

‘In line with many other organisations we accept payment by instalments by direct debit, but we do not accept post-dated cheques.’

The GMC spokesman added that in cases involving serious convictions, such as for sexual offences 'we will now always call for the doctor to be struck off the register'.

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