Indian doctors are among several overseas doctors whose competence to practice in Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is being investigated following an increasing number of complaints registered with the General Medical Council (GMC).
The major GMC inquiry comes at a time when overseas doctors are subject to further checks in the wake of the recent attempted car bombs in London and Glasgow. Three overseas-trained doctors, including Sabeel Ahmed from India, were arrested in connection with the blasts.
GMC sources told IANS that in the latest round of fitness-to-practise hearings, the following Indian doctors are being investigated:
Tonmoy Sharma, who graduated from Dibrugarh, Assam, in 1987, is being investigated for allegations that as a Clinical Lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, University of London and a Principal Investigator undertaking research studies, he was, at various times, misleading, dishonest, unethical and unprofessional. It is also alleged that Sharma misrepresented himself as having qualified as a PhD and as holding the tile of "Professor".
Vijay Dwivedi, who graduated from Lucknow in 1967, is being investigated for allegations that as a General Practitioner in Wirral, his examination of two patients was performed in a manner that was indecent and inappropriate.
Satyavada Venkata Vidya Bhushan, who graduated from Osmania in 1967, is being investigated for allegations that during treatment of seven patients, his conduct was inappropriate, inadequate, not in the best interests of the patient, below the standards to be expected of a registered medical practitioner and in respect of three patients it was also irresponsible.
Nanalal Ratilal Shah, who graduated from Nagpur in 1967, is being investigated for allegations that as an Essex-based Medical Practitioner, he did not take overall responsibility for the care of patients at the various locum posts he held during the period of July 2002 and April 2005. It is also alleged that he acted in a manner to his patients that was unprofessional, rude, intended to mislead, inconsiderate and careless and disregarded his professional responsibilities.
GMC sources, however, added that the contribution of Indian doctors to the NHS over the years was highly valued, and that the competence of an overwhelming majority of them was not in question.
The new probe will look at the competence of all overseas trained doctors, including from within Europe. There have been several cases of lack of communication skills in English language of doctors trained in Europe leading to serious situations in the NHS.
Doctors from Europe can register and treat patients in Britain but are not tested for clinical competence and do not have to prove they can speak English, unlike those from India, Australia or elsewhere.
Latest GMC figures show that overseas-trained doctors are twice as likely to face disciplinary hearings as UK medical graduates. Three times the number of doctors who trained abroad were struck off the UK medical register last year compared with 2005.
The GMC has now commissioned a series of research projects that will look at a range of issues including the competence of foreign doctors and whether they are subject to institutional racism within the health service.
According to The Times, over 5,000 cases were dealt with by the GMC in 2006. Of these, 303 resulted in a fitness-to-practise hearing and 54 doctors were struck off - 35 of whom had trained outside Britain. The probe will look into the pattern, for which there is currently "no good explanation".
Said Paul Philip, director of standards and fitness-to-practise at the GMC: "The number of fitness-to-practise cases we deal with is going up year on year.
"Doctors with a primary medical qualification from overseas or within the EU are disproportionately represented and more are being refereed to us than we should see without good explanation."