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Banned medic vows to fight GMC 'witch-hunt'

Sunday 28 November 2010

Dr Sarah Myhill
Dr Sarah Myhill

Wales On Sunday reports:

Banned medic vows to fight GMC ‘witch-hunt’

Nov 21 2010 by Daniel Fisher, Wales On Sunday

WHEN Doctor Sarah Myhill first began treating sufferers of ME and chronic fatigue syndrome, she saw herself as a pioneer – changing the lives of hundreds of patients who had nowhere else to turn.

But now, banned from practising medicine and under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) for posing a risk to patients’ health, Dr Myhill says her life has been engulfed by legal battles and her ongoing fight to clear her name.

From her private practice in Llangunllo, Powys, Dr Myhill has become well known – critics would say infamous – for her treatments, combining conventional medicine and homeopathic techniques.

She has also courted controversy with her website, which although hailed by her supporters as a lifeline, has generated anger for, among other things, advising against women taking the oral contraceptive pill.

Speaking for the first time since her suspension Dr Myhill sounds weary – the legal wrangles have dragged on for nine years – but also determined. “I have been completely emasculated professionally,” she said.

“I can’t work as a doctor which means I can’t afford representation, so I am having to do all the legal work myself – and I’m no expert in it. This situation has engulfed my life.”

Dr Myhill’s battles with the GMC began in 2001 following a series of complaints from other doctors.

Those allegations were dropped in 2007, but further complaints emerged.

The first was from a group of doctors concerned that she recommended a B12 injection to a patient, the second came from an anonymous complainant who alleged the information on her website was “very worrying” and was concerned “patients are being seriously misled”.

On the basis of those allegations, in April this year a GMC panel imposed a series of conditions on Dr Myhill’s registration, banning her from prescribing prescription medicines for 12 months and ordering her to remove large sections of her website.

The GMC’s language has been fierce in its criticism.

The hearing’s panel chairman Dr Peter Maguire said: “There may be impairment of your fitness to practise which may pose a real risk to patients and as a result, to members of the public.”

But Dr Myhill is still up for the fight.

“The main allegation against me is from an anonymous e-mail, but the GMC have received more than 1,000 letters from my patients supporting me and more than 4,000 people have signed an online petition to have me reinstated as a doctor.

“It feels to me as if they are ignoring the evidence that doesn’t suit their case.

“The GMC have not made any specific allegations about me. They only talk about my ‘potential’ risk to patients without saying what that risk is.

“I point out to them that by that measure, any doctor in any surgery is a ‘potential’ risk.”

Dr Myhill is making a living by working as a nutritional therapist, while dipping into savings.

But most of her time is spent preparing for her date at the High Court, where she will argue that the GMC has breached her human rights.

“Between me and the GMC – who have all their barristers and lawyers at their disposal – it just isn’t a level playing field.

“They have not explained the specific allegations against me and have therefore breached my human rights.

“I have been punished with no proper trial. The fact is that none of my patients have ever been harmed and none of my patients have ever made a complaint about me.

“If the High Court doesn’t work, then I will take it to the European Court of Human Rights. I know it will go on and on. The GMC have pursued me this far – they aren’t just going to let it go now.”

Ultimately, she believes, it is the patients who are losing out.

“I will survive and get by, but it is my patients who are the ones who will suffer,” she said.

“I can’t give them the service I would like to give them. The GMC won’t listen to them – it’s like their opinions count for nothing. For many of my patients, when they come to me they have done so because they have reached the end of the road. They have no-one else to go to.

“It meant that once I was banned I was unable to refer them on to anyone else.

“The patients are the forgotten victims in all of this.”

Her supporters have inundated the GMC with pleas for her to be reinstated.

For those who have, in their eyes, been cured or at least helped by Dr Myhill, the GMC are engaged in a “witch hunt”.

“They could not be more supportive or generous to me,” she said.

“Some have even sent me money for the fighting fund, which I will use towards a barrister for the court appearances.”

‘She has a holistic approach’

JOANNA Crowch, 35, has been battling chronic fatigue for 10 years.

Until she met Dr Myhill two years ago, Ms Crowch, pictured, had been reduced to living with her parents, unable to work and some days unable to even get out of bed.

She said her life had been transformed by Dr Myhill, who prescribed her a drug she had been unable to get on the NHS.

“She understood my condition better than any doctor I had ever come across. She has a very holistic approach. She doesn’t just think pharmaceutically.

“She thinks outside the box. She gives you a lot of information about your condition and really explains what is going on.”

Since being treated by Dr Myhill, Ms Crowch’s condition has improved so much she has been able to start her own business teaching the piano and she said her life had been vastly improved.

“When I first saw Dr Myhill I was on incapacity benefit and tired all the time. But now I am able to support myself and am able to work and go to clubs once a week. I still have a long way to go but I’m getting there.”

With Dr Myhill no longer allowed to prescribe medicine, Ms Crowch says she had been forced to order her medication online.

‘Dr Myhill saved my life’

BECKY SIME, 39, from Pembrokeshire, suffers with pernicious anaemia, a condition which prevents the body from absorbing vitamin B12.

Ms Sime said she believed that Dr Myhill saved her life.

After being diagnosed with the condition in 2008, she was treated on the NHS with one injection of vitamin B12 every three months.

However, her condition deteriorated rapidly, until she was so ill she was physically unable to get out of bed. Despite this she says, medical professionals continued to tell her that one three-monthly injection was enough treatment.

It was a meeting with Dr Myhill that she said was the turning point.

“I met Dr Myhill when she was giving a speech in Carmarthen,” she said.

“I explained my situation to her and she took me under her wing. She gave me more B12, enough to get me back on my feet. After that I didn’t see a doctor for six months.

“I had been deteriorating so quickly that my family really thought I was going to die. But Sarah saved my life. With her help I have made a recovery.”

After Dr Myhill was banned from prescribing medicine, Ms Sime returned to an NHS doctor who, she said, was astonished by her recovery. The NHS now funds her medication.

‘She thinks outside the box’

Jacqui Footman, 51, who was once diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) but no longer suffers from the illness, said Dr Myhill changed her life.

Ms Footman, who now works with other sufferers, has been following Dr Myhill’s website closely for years, and said the advice she gave made her "a beacon of hope" for sufferers all over the UK.

Ms Footman said: "I became a patient of Dr Myhill’s after meeting her in 2007 but had been following her wonderful website for many years. I have recommended it to so many people I have lost count.

"What sets her apart is that she really looks at the causes of your condition, rather than just give you drugs. She treats it as a physical illness.

"I had been looking for someone like Dr Myhill since my 20s. When I found her I just thought ‘yes’ because here was someone who would really listen to me, and give me proper tests. She so freely gives her time and her advice. She thinks outside the box and I don’t believe the GMC like that. I have written to the GMC because I am so angry about her treatment.

"If they succeed in wiping her out that would be a disgrace – where else will we have to turn?"

The above originally appeared here.

And here are our previous news items about Dr Myhill and her court case:

www

24/11: GP wins court review against GMC

www

28/10: Suspended GP fights to clear name

www

18/10: Dr Sarah Myhill suspended one year for 'inappropriate treatment'

 


 

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