A message from Dr. Colin Brewer to Prof. Arnold Trebach during the ‘Stapleford four’ case at the GMC, London in 2006.
We learn this morning that Dr. Tovey, whom the GMC conceded his diligence & experience within the addiction field, and was left in charge with a NHS doctor, to create ‘checks & balances’ has been suspended by the GMC of Manchester.
This once again leaves many hundreds of patients in anxiety about their future lives and what that means.
“Addicts are the scapegoat of our age.”
—Reverend Terence E. Tanner, London, 1979
Message from Dr. Colin Brewer
“The verdict in the record-breaking saga of The General Medical Council vs The Stapleford Centre is expected tomorrow, Nov 9th, at around midday. I attach a copy of the statement that I made to the GMC at their last hearing of evidence in July this year. It is difficult to believe that this process actually began in October 2004 and has involved around 100 days of hearings spread over two years. As you will see from the statement, I shall be very surprised if the GMC do not strike me off. It is pretty normal in cases involving ‘prescribing’ doctors held to be too generous. (The large number of doctors who cause many deaths through under-prescribing never get troubled by the GMC.) Since I retired from clinical work some three years ago, that would be of little practical importance though naturally, I would have preferred my retirement to be a quieter period than it has turned out to be.
We may hold a press conference at some stage. Several TV networks have expressed interest in doing a serious background piece involving the wider issues of prohibition and drug abuse and in case you have the time and the interest, I also attach a draft chapter for a multi-author international textbook that should be published next year, though please don’t quote directly from it without discussing it with me, simply because it is unfinished and would be against the conventions of academic publishing.
I am coping pretty well with the strain and my MA European History course at Birkbeck is a powerful and pleasant distraction. (Of no conceivable relevance but a simple coincidence, today’s date is a conjunction in the German calendar with enormous historic, cultural and symbolic connotations. Nov 9th apparently marks the abdication of the Kaiser in 1918, Kristallnacht in 1938 and the end of the Berlin Wall in 1991; and Nov 10th was the birthday of Martin Luther. I do not imply that the GMC’s decisions are of comparable importance.)
My email address-book is playing hard-to-get, so please forgive errors of exclusion, inclusion or duplication and also delays in transmission. Those privileged to be on our modest and very secular Christmas-card list will get a fuller account of life on Bankside eventually. I hope to be spending the last two weeks of 2006 in and around Mozambique but much depends on decisions about what happens to the clinic – and to its several hundred long-term and generally well-functioning maintenance patients who are naturally rather anxious at the moment.
My thanks to all of you who have given support and help.”
The GMC verdict was delivered on time and as expected, my name was erased. What was unexpected – and rather nice – was that they recognised my contributions to addiction medicine, hard work, absence of financial motivation etc and even criticised the poor standard of many NHS clinics. I can live with that, especially as they allowed Ron Tovey to continue working at the clinic, subject to supervision from an NHS consultant who shares many of our aims and views. This almost certainly means the continuation of the clinic and enormous relief for our patients (and staff).
Press comment has been surprisingly scanty and not notably hostile – nothing in the Guardian, Telegraph, Mail or Express. ( I decline to recognise lower forms of journalistic life but I haven’t heard of anything in the Red Tops.) There were only short, factual pieces on the radio and TV news, all quite balanced, as were items in the Times and Independent. I think some of the broadsheets are also interested in doing a more comprehensive treatment. We have had lots of supportive messages and – so far – no hate-mail. We also have offers of practical help and support.
The only official response so far has been a routine letter from BUPA informing me that they will no longer pay the fees of patients seen by me. Since, as they concede, I don’t see patients and haven’t invoiced them for about three years, this is no great hardship. I’m told that the Royal Society of Medicine removes one’s membership but I hardly ever visit the place and if I need to use its excellent library, I can re-join much more cheaply as a member of the Medical Journalists’ Association. Meanwhile, I have thirty days left to savour the privileges of medical life. (‘Make way. I’m a doctor!’) Perhaps I will take my cue from Churchill and style myself ‘Former Medical Person’.
All good wishes. Colin. V.iii