Dr Z had no retraining help when he returned to work after an 18-month gap following a conviction for drug abuse. He was a rural GP for five years before starting to abuse opiate drugs, like diamorphine, which he obtained through his practice, and then underwent several weeks in a treatment centre. He was allowed back to work, under GMC surveillance by a screener - a consultant psychiatrist - but relapsed back to drug abuse within six weeks, though he maintains his work did not suffer while he was taking heroin. But after a car accident, he was given an 18 months' conditional discharge and was kept under continuing observation by the GMC. He had another period of treatment, taking sick leave from work, then resigning.
After 18 months his screener pronounced him fit to return to work. It took six months to find a job - he had been banned from general practice. Finally, he was appointed as a community paediatrician and - after five years - has not relapsed. Within 12 months he should be cleared of GMC surveillance. He says: 'The most helpful people were the British Doctors and Dentists Group [an arm of the Sick Doctors' Trust].'
The Sick Doctors' Trust helpline: 01252-345163.