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DOCTORS HAVE A SENSE OF RESIGNATION

15-11-2007

Top Birmingham neurologist Dr David Nicholl plans to "doorstep" the government's Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson today and call on him to resign. Here he tells us why.

Neurologists are better known for our diagnostic skills with a tendon hammer than our flying pickets- but sometimes you have to shout when the people at the top aren't listening.

I don't mean to be uncharitable, I think there are some things that Sir Liam Donaldson can be genuinely proud of in his tenure as Chief Medical Officer for England over almost 10 years - his work to bring a ban on smoking in public spaces and on patient safety are to be commended.

However, it is his work on the training of doctors which has so outraged colleagues, specifically the controversial scheme Modernising Medical Careers.

Sir Liam should take the advice of the The Daily Telegraph - "Well, he's clearly not listening to the doctors or he'd know that, in this conflict, it is the public who have the most to lose. Perhaps he should ask himself how he'd like to be remembered: as a government stooge or as a doctor who really did uphold the best interests of patients."

Some quotes from him over the last year show just how out of touch he has been with reality. In an interview with the British Medical Journal about the training of junior doctors he said: "So there were big problems with the old system. We think there are going to be many fewer problems with the new system, it won't be perfect but it is attempting to iron out very longstanding difficulties with what was becoming a very outmoded way of training and education."

In April 2007, he stated in the BMJ, "Sir George Godber, one of my predecessors. A giant of his time. He mastered the three qualities needed by a good CMO; the ability to command the confidence of ministers, the skill to negotiate the complexities of Whitehall, and the gift of communication. Finally, he was a man of great integrity. If people do not trust you, you are lost."

In May 2006, Sir Liam told the House of Commons Health Select Committee that "My own view is that I do not really accept the assessment that there is an oversupply of doctors."

Yet, Prof Alan Crockard, former national lead for MMC, in his resignation letter earlier this year stated "From my point of view, this project has lacked clear leadership from the top for a very long time".

Today, Sir Liam Donaldson is giving evidence to the inquiry into MMC to the Commons Health Select committee. In a remarkable piece of luck, the Association of British Neurologists is having its annual meeting in London across the street from Sir Liam's grilling in Parliament.

Perhaps not so lucky for Sir Liam - 99% of neurologists voted against the principles of MMC in a recent debate.

Anyhow I will be cajoling my colleagues to come out and join junior doctors to tell Sir Liam Donaldson it's time to resign and take responsibility for this mess.

Sir Liam we no longer trust you, you are lost, it is time to go.

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