The General Medical Council has used newly acquired powers to suspend or restrict three doctors while investigations take place into suspected poor performance.

The GMC's new interim orders committee met for the first time last week and barred cosmetic surgeon David Herbert from all work - whether NHS or private, paid or voluntary - following complaints from dozens of women.

Mr Herbert worked privately in Huntingdon, Preston and Nottingham. Colleagues commenting on the speed of his surgery dubbed him the 'flying doctor'.

Earlier this year MP Ann Clwyd used parliamentary privilege to describe Mr Herbert as a 'psychopath'.

Ms Clwyd said he carried out as many as 35 surgical procedures a week, managing a facelift in 40 minutes.

The committee also placed an 18month restriction on Yorkshire surgeon Christopher Ingoldby, who will only be allowed to carry out surgical procedures in accident and emergency departments.

Wirral GP Dr Peter Robson will not be allowed to see patients and must restrict himself to medical tribunal work only for the next 18 months.

The GMC has come under bitter attack from both patient and doctors in recent years for failing to act swiftly enough to protect patients where doctors are suspected of poor performance.

The GMC claims it drew government attention to previous inconsistencies in the law, which only allowed it to suspend doctors in certain circumstances.

Consultant William Thomson, who was reprimanded but not struck off by the GMC two weeks ago for wrongly removing a patient's healthy breast, has been stripped of a discretionary performance award worth£2,460 a year by Lanarkshire Acute Hospitals trust.

Trust chief executive Joe Owens said it was reviewing discretionary awards procedures after it was revealed that its own awards panel did not know Mr Thomson was being investigated by the GMC.