Scores of disabled people were raped, drugged, assaulted and neglected at the notorious Longcare homes in south Buckinghamshire while Dr X* was their GP in the early 1990s.
Dr X had recently been working within a primary care trust in the London area, but the trust refused to say exactly where he was practising, insisting that his new patients had no right to know about the allegations he faced in connection with his time as GP for the Longcare homes, near Slough.
The homes were run by a former social worker, Gordon Rowe, who instigated an horrific regime of violence and abuse, which saw adults with learning difficulties raped, sexually assaulted, punished with brutal beatings, neglected, drugged and deprived of food and toiletries for more than 10 years.
The regime was finally exposed in the autumn of 1994, after a council report detailing the abuse was leaked to newspapers.
Dr X was the GP for the two residential homes, located on the edge of Slough, from 1990 until after Rowe and his wife were forced to leave the company.
The allegations are detailed in a book, Longcare Survivors: The Biography of a Care Scandal, by John Pring, editor of Disability News Service (DNS).
The book describes how Dr X repeatedly over-prescribed powerful sedatives for residents, failed to spot signs of neglect and ill-treatment such as severe weight loss and bruises, or to act over signs of sexual abuse, such as vaginal discharge and anal bleeding, and kept almost no records of treatment, even though he visited the homes every week.
There were also serious concerns about his repeated prescriptions of contraceptive injections for a number of women who were at the time being raped by Gordon Rowe.
One former member of Longcare staff remembers watching Dr X line up Rowe’s favoured female residents and delivering the injections one after the other, without even talking to the women and while continuing to chat to Rowe, who was in the reception area.
Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart – a former Labour Home Office minister – has repeatedly raised concerns about the GMC’s failure to conduct a proper investigation into the care provided by Dr X at Longcare.
In January 2011, she wrote to the GMC, stating that the documents shown to her by Pring “raise very serious issues about [Dr X’s] fitness to practise”, and asking it to investigate.
The GMC had already refused three times to carry out a full and proper investigation into the allegations against Dr X. It told Mactaggart that it would “not… be appropriate” to open another investigation.
This week, Mactaggart was scathing of the GMC’s failures in the case.
She said: “It is hard for people with learning disabilities who are abused by health professionals to be heard.
“More than any other group of patients they depend on regulators to defend their interests, and too often the regulators have let them down.
“In this case, the GMC used bureaucratic means to prevent current patients knowing what this doctor did to patients at Longcare, actions which were documented as part of a court case.
“I am glad he is no longer practising but sad that the regulator, in this case the GMC, put more energy into concealing the past actions of this doctor from current patients than to finding out if that deplorable behaviour was continuing.”
June Raybaud, a barrister whose late niece was repeatedly raped at Longcare, said the GMC had been “breathtakingly inventive” in the excuses it had used for failing to investigate Dr X thoroughly and had “worked really hard at strapping red tape firmly around all of the allegations made”.
She said: “The fact of the matter is that it was only with the full complicity of the doctor that the residents were able to be treated in such a criminally abusive manner.
“The GMC have condoned his actions. The GMC are either guilty of malpractice themselves or they are incompetent. In either event they should be removed instantly as the guardians of the profession.”
Last year, DNS lodged a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the trust to reveal the location of the surgery or other health premises where Dr X was now working.
But the trust claimed that, although Dr X was on the “performers list” of GPs able to work within its area, it was unable to say exactly where he was working because he was not a partner or salaried GP or otherwise “employed” by the trust.
On 12 July 2011, DNS complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office about the trust’s failure to reveal where Dr X was working.
But before that complaint could be concluded, Dr X voluntarily “relinquished” his registration with the GMC.
This means that he cannot currently practise as a doctor in the UK.
It is not known if there were any outstanding complaints against Dr X, but even if there were the GMC would be unable to pursue them unless he applied to rejoin the register.
Dr X has also removed himself from the trust’s performers list.
A spokesman for the primary care trust said it was aware of the Longcare allegations at the time he applied to join its performers list and was also aware that the allegations had been investigated and had not led to action against him by the GMC.
He said: “No complaints have been made against Dr X since his inclusion on [the list]and no concerns about his practice have been raised.”
When DNS raised concerns about Dr X’s work in the trust area in 2010, the trust’s head of primary care “made further enquiries” about the allegations.
The trust spokesman said: “To date we are satisfied through these and the established appraisal system about Dr X’s performance as a GP in [the trust area].”
He said he had no idea why Dr X had decided to remove himself from the performers list and the GMC register.
Niall Dickson, the GMC’s chief executive, said: “The events at the Longcare care homes in the 1980s and 1990s are extremely distressing.
“Those who abused some of the most vulnerable members of our society in a place where they should have been safe and cared for rightly faced criminal investigations and were jailed for their crimes in 1997.
“We looked into concerns that were raised about the doctor who attended the residents of the care homes.
“The evidence that was available at the time meant that we, like the police, could not take any further action.”
He added: “The individual we investigated is no longer on the medical register so cannot work as a doctor in the UK.”
Gordon Rowe committed suicide in 1996 before he could be charged, but three former members of Longcare staff – including Rowe’s widow Angela – were convicted of neglect and ill-treatment. Angela Rowe and another former Longcare manager were jailed in 1997.
*His name is currently being withheld by Disability News Service
2 February 2012