I find the recent General Medical Council decisions - regarding one of the Bristol surgeons and the anaesthetist involved in the paediatric dental case - extraordinary.

In both cases they were told they could not practise for three years. Surely there is no better way to ensure that the quality of these clinicians' care in three years' time is as poor, if not worse, than if they continued to practise. High-quality care requires a number of things, but maintaining skill levels by practising is surely one of them.

A better approach, and one more in line with how such cases are handled elsewhere in the world, would be to require the consultant involved to retrain by demoting them into a training grade, where their practice would be overseen. Such retraining would involve not just improving clinical technique, but reviewing whether the doctor's standard of conduct is such that they are suitable to rejoin their consultant peers at a later date - with the attendant responsibilities.

This solution would also have the added advantage of imposing a financial penalty on these doctors by reducing their private practice income.

Paul Plant


Health and healthcare group

South East Institute of Public Health