Dr Neil MacFarlane BA MBBS MA MRCPsych
I am an independent UK psychiatrist, currently in a dispute with the GMC over whether non-prescribing practice requires a specific licence. I argue that the GMC has misled the public for the last five months, claiming that my offering consultations (without prescribing medication) require both registration with them, and a licence. Their own guidance shows that not only is false, but that they fail to monitor all registered-but-unlicensed doctors, as they are required to do under the Medical Act 1983.
The GMC appears to have caused distress to a complainant who raised the issue of licensed practice in November 2018, by also misleading her in this way.
In January the GMC told me that a second complainant had expressed concerns about my Tweeting and blogging, which included that ‘…he is trying to tarnish the good reputation of doctors from all areas of mental health disciplines. […] I have tried to get him to delete tweets and blogs for months now…’.
In early March the GMC told me it would seek my suspension from its register. ‘Reasons’ given by its anonymous psychiatrist who had oversight included ‘He has made antagonistic tweets about other psychiatrists…’.
In pre-hearing legal disclosure the GMC refused to provide any details of its links with the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The GMC also refused to make its psychiatrist, or anyone else, available as a witness for me to test its evidence, in the medical (MPTS) tribunal.
I raised these failings of basic legal procedure, together with the legal position on licensing, with the tribunal but there was no consideration of them in its five-page written decision, justifying its decision to suspend me from the GMC register for a year. MPTS tribunals are chaired by a lawyer.
The tribunal was supposed to be public, but it was not properly so, as public attenders were not able to view Tweets, blog pieces and other evidence considered.
I will receive a transcript, and I believe it will show other irregularities in the tribunal’s proceedings.
My suspension must be reviewed in six months (September 2019). I can seek a review in the High Court before that, but would have to fund that myself. The GMC can consider ‘new’ complaints at any time, and have kept some doctors under suspension for years.
The GMC has a history of disregard for the Law and the courts. Most recently, its ability to appeal to the High Court was removed due to its behaviour in the case of Dr Bawa-Garba. I have commented on that case myself.
I continue to offer consultations, and comment in public, technically as ‘an informed lay person’ rather than a registered doctor. I will also continue with my attempts to restore public confidence in UK psychiatry, and draw attention to the RCPsych’s and GMC’s failures to maintain that confidence.
(11th April: I have advised the GMC of changes to this website and my Twitter profile)
Selected Blog piece #1: Prescribed Harm from Psychiatric Drugs: a Manifesto
Selected Blog piece #2: ‘The Inflamed Mind’ by Ed Bullmore: book review
Selected Blog piece #3: How ‘Drop the Disorder!’ colludes with the neoliberalism it claims to oppose
(NOT NOW WHOLLY APPLICABLE – from 20th March 2018 – see above – I HAVE LEFT THIS UNCHANGED AS A HISTORICAL RECORD)
I am a registered psychiatrist (a specialist medical practitioner, GMC number 3205688) preparing to re-apply for a licence to prescribe medication. I can currently offer consultations on a limited basis (skip to ‘I plan to resume practice‘ below).
While training in Medicine (BA MBBS) at Cambridge University and Guy’s Hospital I became seriously interested in mental health in 1984-5, studying with Dr Maurice Lipsedge (Aliens and Alienists) and Dr Paul Bridges (psychiatrist to the UK’s last major psychosurgery unit). In 1985-6 I was an elective student at the Maudsley Hospital and attended the grand rounds and research seminars of Dr Alwyn Lishman, Dr Gerald Russell (who first described Bulimia Nervosa) and Dr Michael Rutter.
After six months at the ‘Transcultural Psychiatry Unit’ in Bradford, I became a trainee in Manchester, regarded by many at that time as the leading psychiatry centre in the UK. Among other names well-known within mental health, I worked for Dr Phil Thomas (Postpsychiatry), Dr David Goldberg (the first psychiatrist to be knighted in decades), and Dr Digby Tantam.
I have always been interested in psychosocial causes and treatments of mental disorder. In the 1990s I gained supervised experience in several different modalities of psychotherapy, and took part in a weekly psychodrama group. In 1999-2001 I obtained two years of certified systemic therapy training at Leeds University.
In the late nineties I took part in a focus group about an advertisement for Risperdal and was paid £20: I said that I thought the advert was misleading and they ran it anyway! I accepted meals at Pharma-sponsored ‘educational activities’, and accommodation in Manchester and Oxford over two weekends as a trainee (both weekends actually had minimal Pharma input).
In 1994 I became a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (MRCPsych) and then trained as a GP. I returned to psychiatry in 1997, and from 1999-2008 I was an NHS Specialist Registrar and Consultant in Adult Developmental Psychiatry. At the end of that time I also worked for the Priory Group to return patients from hospitals up to 250 miles away, and as a visiting consultant to a residential home for people with autistic spectrum disorder.
From 2005-8 I was an honorary senior lecturer at the University of Kent, and taught on the masters degree course in psychiatry.
After practising as an independent specialist with a focus on adult ADD / ADHD in Wimpole Street (part of ‘Harley Street’), London, until 2014, I decided to stop prescribing medication and gave up my (then, wholly private) practice.
In 2013 I completed an MA in Victorian Studies, and for the next 3-4 years focused on a range of issues in the Medical Humanities.
In 2017 I resumed my interest in mental health and developmental conditions. I have clarified my position as ‘Pro-diagnosis but Pharma-sceptic’, in the current UK context. This Blog contains opinion and facts informed by science and non-science.
I have had an anxiety disorder (early 1980s). I declined advice to try antidepressants when I had moderate-to-severe depression for 2 years in the early 1990s, but then self-medicated semi-emperimentally with Prozac (fluoxetine) for two months after a mild relapse in the late 1990s. I see myself as having mild-to-moderate ADD but have not tried ADD/ADHD medication.
Until my licence (which mainly relates to prescribing) is renewed I can offer consultations and provide advice on how to enhance support and treatment from NHS GPs, other doctors, and mental health professionals. I can also provide opinion about NICE guidance and other sources of ‘Evidence based Medicine’.
My current interest in helping people reduce and stop certain psychiatric drugs overlaps with my previous focus on ADHD because many people with developmental conditions have been prescribed poorly-indicated medication, especially antidepressants. However, I have always had a cautious approach to medication discontinuation. I continue to believe that ADHD medication is often very helpful, and that some people with apparently mild mental health problems may benefit from antidepressants, mood stabilisers and other drugs.
The GMC has never investigated any complaint made against me by a patient. On one occasion an NHS consultant made a complaint against my independent practice but that was dropped by the GMC after the complainant later agreed with my diagnosis and treatment plan.
I have always tried to promote constructive communication between NHS patients and NHS professionals and managers, however on occasion formal complaints may be useful and necessary.
I am (late 2018) promoting the necessity for the NHS to set up special clinics for people having problems withdrawing from psychiatric medication (‘Prescribed Harm’), and offering to work myself part-time in such a clinic.
Please email initial enquiries to email@example.com.
I welcome any offers of work, for a reduced fee or no fee, from the NHS, charities, or other organisations.