WORKFORCE: The General Medical Council has abandoned fitness to practise investigations into four senior doctors at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust due to insufficient evidence.

The watchdog today said it had closed cases against three of the trust’s former medical directors Dr John Gibson, Dr Valerie Suarez and Dr Diarmuid Mulherin as well as deputy medical director Dr David Durrans because there was “no realistic prospect” of a finding against them.

The GMC took legal advice from Tom Kark QC, who was counsel to the public inquiry into failings at the trust.

Following the inquiry report prime minister David Cameron criticised both the GMC and the Nursing and Midwifery Council for failing to hold individuals to account.

Evidence from the inquiry about all four doctors was ruled inadmissible to the GMC process where hearings must fulfil a civil standard of proof.

The GMC carried out its own investigation including taking statements from 26 witnesses. Mr Kark said while this evidence demonstrated “there were systematic management problems at the trust” none of it could be attributed to any individual doctor or support a case that any of the doctors were impaired.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC said: ““We know that many of those who saw and experienced the appalling care at the trust feel badly let down and frustrated that no-one is taking responsibility for what happened. However, the law is clear: we can only prosecute a doctor if there is sufficient evidence of that individual’s wrongdoing.”

Mr Dickson added: “The decisions reached in these cases were about the lack of evidence against these doctors and the quality of evidence must always be the foundation of any cases we take forward.”

He said the GMC was currently working with the Department of Health to look at the regulator’s legal framework to “see what more can be done to increase appropriate accountability when things go wrong.”

This could include allowing the GMC to appeal fitness to practise decisions and to hold doctors to account for past mistakes even if they are no longer a danger to patients.

So far the GMC has concluded cases against 43 of 44 doctors relating to Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust with one doctor struck off the medical register for fraud. It has issued warnings and advice to some doctors with 16 having no further action taken against them.

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