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Last Updated: Monday, 27 October, 2003, 12:43 GMT
Crackdown on NHS suspensions
hospital ward
Doctors may be suspended for some time
The government is planning to tighten up the rules on suspending doctors after claims the problem costs the NHS millions of pounds a year.

A Reader's Digest investigation estimated the NHS spends up to 50m a year on suspended doctors' wages and paying for staff to cover for them.

Around 100 doctors are currently prevented from working because they are suspended, it said.

The Department of Health said it wanted to ensure cases are resolved quickly.

The BMA does have concerns that there are cases where the system is being abused.
Dr Edwin Borman, British Medical Association
Reader's Digest claimed that in four out of five cases where doctors are suspended, they are eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.

It says many suspensions occur because of "petty jealousies" and rows with colleagues and managers.

'Speedy resolutions'

The Department of Health said it is looking at the process by which doctors are suspended, and considering a new system with an immediate exclusion of no more than two weeks.

A spokeswoman said: "It is in the interests of all concerned to ensure that alternatives to suspension are carefully considered, for example the employee continuing to work on limited or alternative duties where practicable.

"When suspension is appropriate, it is essential that proper resources are committed to ensure the speedy resolution of the case."

She added: "The department is revising the processes for the exclusion of doctors from work.

"It is expected that the new system will include an immediate exclusion of no more than two weeks, appointment of a board member to oversee the exclusion and subsequent action and a programme for return to work if not referred to disciplinary or competence procedures."

'Dysfunction'

Dr Edwin Borman, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, said: "There is obviously a legitimate place for the suspension of doctors - for example when there is a potential danger to patients.

"However, the BMA does have concerns that there are cases where the system is being abused.

"Suspension is frequently an indicator of a broader degree of dysfunction within a hospital or department and just because one individual has been identified it does not always mean that he or she is the only problem - or even a problem at all."


SEE ALSO:
Doubt over doctor checks
16 Feb 00  |  Health


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