No action over Stafford Hospital doctors

Stafford Hospital
Image caption Neglect and abuse at Stafford Hospital led to unnecessary suffering

Four senior doctors who worked at Stafford Hospital at the height of the neglect and abuse scandal will not face disciplinary action.

Dr John Gibson, Dr Valerie Suarez, Dr David Durrans and Dr Dermot Mulherin, who all held senior management positions, were investigated by the General Medical Council.

But the regulator has now said it is dropping the cases.

Legal advice found there was "no realistic prospect" of success.

The decision comes after widespread criticism when the public inquiry was published in February that those responsible for the scandal have not been held to account.

At the time, Prime Minister David Cameron said the likes of the GMC and the Nursing and Midwifery Council had "some difficult questions to answer".

Since then three nurses have been struck off the register - with one disciplinary hearing ongoing.

The GMC has given warnings and advice to other doctors who worked at Stafford Hospital.

But as yet no-one has been struck off for their role in providing medical care - one doctor has been erased from the register for fraud.

'Systematic management problems'

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: "Following the extensive investigations we have undertaken there is not the evidence to establish either misconduct or impairment against any of the doctors."

The GMC got legal advice from Tom Kark QC, who worked on the public inquiry, after taking statements from 26 witnesses.

Mr Kark advised the GMC that while there was evidence that would have demonstrated there were systematic management problems at the trust - none of it could be attributed to any individual doctor.

However, Mr Dickson said he was in talks with the Department of Health to relax the regulatory framework under which the regulator operates.

At the moment, the GMC has to not only prove that a doctor's performance fell below what was expected, but that they also provide an ongoing risk to patients.

The GMC believes the system would be improved if cases were only judged on what the individual has done.

"We are not a doctors club. We are not here to protect doctors," Mr Dickson added.

But Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said while it would be unfair to comment on the four individuals, serious questions needed to be asked about the regulatory process.

"The general delay in holding individuals to account for failings at Stafford is outrageous.

"Years on, and after huge numbers of avoidable deaths, we have still only just scratched the surface of holding the nurses, clinicians and managers to account for the failings that occurred."

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