§ Mr. Cann
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many surgeons suspended on full pay by NHS hospital trusts have later been(a) dismissed and (b) reinstated; and how many cases await a decision on the surgeon's future; 516W
(2) how many surgeons have been suspended on full pay because of concern about their professional competence by NHS hospital trusts since their inception; 
(3) what discussions she has had with the General Medical Council on the employment of suspended surgeons in hospitals, other than those in respect of which they were suspended; and what further discussions she plans to have; 
(4) what advice her Department gives to NHS hospital trusts about the employment of surgeons who have been suspended by other NHS hospital trusts. 
§ Mr. Malone
The General Medical Council, an independent statutory body, is responsible for protecting the public by regulating the medical profession. Its professional conduct committee may attach conditions to a doctor's registration, or suspend or remove a doctor from the register, if the doctor is found guilty of serious professional misconduct. The committee may immediately suspend a doctor, notwithstanding that he may appeal. In exceptional circumstances, interim suspension for two months may be imposed pending a hearing by the professional conduct committee. A doctor whose name is suspended or erased cannot practise in the national health service.
The GMC's powers are being widened. We have introduced the Medical (Professional Performance) Bill this Session, based on proposals by the GMC, to allow it to take action in cases of seriously deficient professional performance by doctors. This action may include suspension of registration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will meet the new president of the GMC, when he is elected, to discuss these and other matters.
A doctor suspended by a NHS trust needs the trust's permission to work elsewhere. We would expect the trust to consider carefully the circumstances in which the doctor was suspended before agreeing to any other employment. Working without permission is a breach of contract. All NHS trusts should obtain references from previous employers as part of their duty to ensure that the competence and integrity of a doctor is not in doubt.
A decision to disqualify a general practitioner is made by the NHS tribunal. We have supported the Bill introduced this Session by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Austin-Walker)—the NHS (Amendment) Bill—which will enable the tribunal to protect patients by suspending a GP before a full hearing takes place.
Guidance on doctors' registration and employment was issued in EL(92)84, copies of which are available in the Library. Figures on the number of suspensions by NHS trusts are not available centrally.