I am Dr Sacha Simon; I qualified in 1995 and am currently the Senior GP Partner of the multiple award-winning Whitestone Surgery. You can learn more about me here: https://www.drsachasimon.com/about-me
On 17th September 2020 I was suspended from General Practice by NHS England (NHSE) after blowing the whistle on patient safety issues and major financial irregularities within Bedworth and Bulkington Primary Care Network (PCN). Without any investigation of the allegations, NHSE forwarded them to the General Medical Council (GMC) who similarly suspended me to ostensibly investigate these allegations.
I am passionate about the welfare and wellbeing of my patients, both here and overseas. I am entirely committed to their safety and to my role as their doctor.
Training doctors in Kabul, Afghanistan
At a time when the entire country is desperately short of GPs, the GMC stopped me from caring for my patients. This occurred during Covid lockdown and an international healthcare crisis when my patients most needed me. Despite these challenges, Whitestone Surgery continued to deliver outstanding patient care: https://whitestonesurgery.org/whats-the-media-saying.
In order to seek purported deficiencies of me, NHS England and the GMC used an unauthorised forensic audit conducted by a clinical pharmacist who had only qualified one month earlier. This audit breached his contractual obligations to the practice and was clearly beyond his experience and expertise.
This pharmacist was the first employee of the same PCN that I had previously raised concerns about regarding serious financial irregularities. The PCN quickly disbanded and is now the subject of a NHS Counter Fraud Authority investigation (ref no. FCRTF73394E61). Despite four Interim Order Tribunals and two High Court applications to extend my suspension, the GMC have never submitted any evidence to substantiate the allegations of wrongdoing. On 22nd March 2023, two and a half years into my suspension, the GMC finally informed me what allegations they are investigating. In summary these are:
- Not performing a urine albumin creatinine ratio (ACR) test for a patient with chronic kidney disease. This is despite the ACR test being clearly recorded in the electronic medical record.
- Stopping oral anticoagulant (blood thinning) treatment to reduce the risk of gastric bleeds in a clinically obese patient with chronic knee pain on anti-inflammatory pain medication. This is despite me respecting this well informed patient's wishes and with his expressed consent, agreeing to focus on managing his knee pain.
- Reducing polypharmacy (ie over prescription of medications) in an 84 year old patient with multiple organ failure. Despite working in tandem with the local hospital department of cardiology to reduce the medication.
- During the pandemic giving a suicidal patient a next day face-to-face appointment with me to assess him, instead of referring him to the crisis team. Despite at that time the crisis team had stopped taking face-to-face referrals and had not yet set up their own systems for doing remote consultations.
Launch event for Happy Healthy and Involved in Nuneaton
Doctors and authorities widely believe that the GMC is in serious need of reform owing to the identification of significant shortcomings and mishandling of cases:
Today every GP in the country should be concerned about the governance of PCN clinical pharmacists within their respective practices. On 5th December 2022, Chris Smith from the General Pharmaceutical Council concluded a formal complaint CAS-17508-Q8T3V2; 'After assessing all the information, we have decided this is not the sort of issue that would justify a formal investigation into XXX XXXX fitness to practise at this current time, as we are unable to identify serious misconduct in the registrant’s actions'.
Without scrutiny and accountability of the GMC, what prevents them from using PCNs to target other GPs who bravely speak up to protect patient safety and help improve our health service? I need your help now to prevent my fight from possibly becoming your fight sometime in the near future.
The necessary freedom for GPs to speak up and protect services for their patients is under threat like never before. My suspension directly led to the collapse of the proposed Whitestone Integrated Care Facility designed by my practice team to relieve the intolerable pressure on the health services for Southeast Nuneaton. This was a major loss to one of the most under-doctored or deprived regions in the UK.
Despite being a subscription payer for over 26 years, the Medical Protection Society (my insurer) has withdrawn their support. On 17th July 2022, in a further act of intimidation and without justification, NHS England stopped my suspension payment even though it is mandated by the Secretary of State. This was my only source of NHS income to support my wife and three school aged children.
A 'training session' with the Simon Family
William E Gladstone coined the phrase 'Justice delayed is justice denied'. The GMC's own research showed that 29 doctors died while under investigation during 2018 to 2020 https://www.gmc-uk.org/-/media/documents/doctors-who-have-died-while-under-investigation-or-during-a-period-of-monitoring-2018-2020--89398370.pdf. Therefore it is extremely concerning to any doctor regulated by the GMC that, without any evidence, they can maintain a suspension and at the same time deny me the opportunity to defend myself.
Unsurprisingly, the financial, psychological, emotional and reputational damage of this prolonged and entirely unjustified investigation has been utterly devastating. Any financial support you can offer to continue this legal defence, however small, is very much appreciated. I need your help to raise funds for the overwhelming financial costs to:
- defend the regulatory GMC legal case against me
- self fund an Employment Tribunal (West Midlands Claim Number 1310853/2022)
- restore the integrated care facility for our community
The patient safety issues and the major financial irregularities which I highlighted prior to my suspension are now clearly established and can be independently corroborated within the public record. However, as far as I understand, NHS England's defence strategy in the Employment Tribunal is to deny all GPs any whistle-blower protection under the Employment Rights Act 1996. This is significant and has profound implications for every GP in this country.
Should NHS England succeed in this argument, the legal right for GPs to protect patients and their access to a quality service is under a coordinated sustained threat like never before. It is revealing that instead of choosing to create 14,000 new GPs, NHS England used £1.4bn to create ARRS roles in primary care. Without thorough consensus from healthcare professionals, the Physician Associate role has been created and is now proposed to be regulated by the GMC. Consequently, a recent survey has revealed that there has been a 50% reduction in advertised GP roles over the last 12 months.
I cannot thank you enough for helping me to safeguard the right for doctors to speak freely to protect their patients without undue fear of censorship by our regulators. All invoices for costs incurred will be published here: https://whitestonesurgery.org/protecting-gp-right-to-speak-up. So you can be assured we are 100% transparent and account for every penny spent.
Any money donated which is not spent will be given to support the development of the integrated care facility.
Presenting outstanding patient engagement research from Whitestone Surgery at the RCGP Primary Care Conference 2023
Please go ahead and share this link with your friends. We must stand together to protect our access to excellent healthcare. We cannot allow the GMC or NHS England to stop GPs speaking up for their patients. Again, thank you for your help. I greatly appreciate it. This is a battle we can not afford to lose. If the regulatory authorities are allowed to do this to me, then they can do this to anyone in the NHS. Protecting freedom of speech is your battle as much as it is mine.