The GMC says doctors who break conditions or a suspension can expect “swift and firm “ action including criminal prosecutions.

So says the GMC chief executive Niall Dixon responding to revelations by Channel 4 News that five doctors have endangered patients by breaching disciplinary sanctions.

The programme alleged that in the past three years alone, at least 17 already disgraced doctors breached conditions or suspensions handed down by the GMC fitness to practise panels.

They include a former locum GP who injected a patient with heroin so that he could use the rest of the vial to feed his addiction. He was found to have worked in defiance of two separate suspensions.

Another GP, sanctioned by the GMC for failing to diagnose meningitis in a baby who later died, continued to work whilst breaching several conditions and had fresh allegations brought against him during that time.

Channel 4 News has also discovered a doctor who was erased from the medical register five years ago and was secretly filmed by an undercover reporter giving a consultation at his cosmetic surgery clinic.

A senior lawyer told the programme that the footage showed him presenting himself as a licensed practitioner – which if proven would be a criminal offence – and the GMC now plan to pass on the case to the authorities.

In response Mr Dixon today released a statement in which he said”

‘Protecting patients must always come first and doctors who break conditions or a suspension order can expect us to take swift and firm action against them - in the cases highlighted by Channel 4, most of the doctors were then struck off by the GMC. We will not tolerate behaviour of this kind.

‘What is more, any doctor practising medicine when they are suspended is breaking the law – we will follow this up with the police as well as acting ourselves.

‘In recent years we have significantly strengthened the way we monitor doctors with conditions or suspensions. We require doctors to tell us about their employers and we keep them informed, and we also circulate details of all the actions we take on doctors’ registrations to all NHS organisations and locum agencies. In addition, this information is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week on our website. The action taken against the doctor is noted on his or her entry to the register which is also available online.

 We have also embarked on further reforms to provide more safeguards for patients and to build an even closer relationship with those who employ doctors. No system can prevent a determined few from breaking the rules, but we are determined to deal with those who do.’