CASES against four doctors accused of misconduct while working in senior positions at Stafford Hospital have been dropped because of a lack of evidence.
Chief executive of the General Medical Council (GMC) Niall Dickson said the decision not to carry the cases of Dr John Gibson, Dr Valerie Suarez, Dr David Durrans and Dr Dermot Mulherin, through to a formal hearing was taken after prosecutor Tom Kark QC - leading counsel to the Francis Inquiry - said there was 'no realistic prospect' of proving the allegations.
"Following the extensive investigations we have undertaken - which Mr Kark acknowledges in his advice - there is not the evidence to establish either misconduct or impairment against any of the doctors," said Mr Dickson.
"We know that many of those who saw and experienced the appalling care at the Trust feel badly let down and frustrated that no-one is taking responsibility for what happened."
"However, the law is clear: we can only prosecute a doctor if there is sufficient evidence of that individual's wrongdoing."
Mr Kark - whose advice to the GMC can be read in full here - said after reviewing evidence from 26 witnesses interviewed by the GMC of the 'actions and omissions' of the four doctors he could find no clear basis to prove serious misconduct or deficient professional performance which might lead to a finding impairment.
He said said while the evidence demonstrated systematic management problems at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust (MSFT) – none of it could be attributed to any individual doctor or to support a case that any of these doctors were impaired.
Interim chief executive at MSFT Maggie Oldham said the trust had cooperated fully with the GMC during the investigations but it would not be appropriate to comment on the decision.
“There is clear, independent evidence that the standard of care at Stafford Hospital has improved greatly over the past few years and this is down to the hard work and dedication shown by all of our staff to their patients," she added.
Mr Dickson admitted there were problems with the GMC's legal remit and said they were working with the department of Health to improve accountability.
"We want to be able to hold doctors to account where they have harmed patients or put them at risk, even if they have subsequently shown insight and can claim they are no longer a risk to patients."
To date the GMC has carried investigations on 66 cases associated with the Mid Staffs inquiry involving 44 doctors as concluded all but one case, with one doctor removed from the medical register, one issued a warning and conditions to practice, one accepting 'undertakings, one issued advice and agreeing 'undertakings', one recieving a warning and issued advice, 22 other doctors issued advice and 16 cleared with no further action taken.