Posted by: Witch Doctor | January 26, 2008

The precarious path




Visit Chez Sam’s and scroll down for some interesting conversations on the Commons Select Committees on MMC.

Sam also posted a link, recently, reminding us about the content of the letter from Carol Black and James Johnson, defending Sir Liam Donaldson.

There is also a bit of serious debate going on there about the “To be or not to be of Sir Liam Donaldson.”



Yes, the Black – Johnson letter supporting the CMO was interesting.

The Witch Doctor never fully understood it.

James Johnson said in his resignation statement:

“In a statement to Channel 4 News, Mr Johnson said that he wrote the letter to support Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, who had come under “unfair attack for failing to give leadership over the MTAS fiasco”.

As a civil servant he was not in a position to defend himself, or to “apologise on behalf of the government for what amounts to a failure of policy”, said Mr Johnson.

“I wrote the letter to offer a bit of support. I did not consult others because it is not BMA policy to oppose the chief medical officer,” he said.”



As it turns out, James Johnson and Carol Black were ASKED to write a letter of support to show unity.

Professor Neil Douglas, Chairman of the Review Group asked the Academy of Royal Colleges and the BMA to produce a letter to demonstrate support of the review group and of the CMO in order to show unity regarding the principles of MMC and Unfinished Business.

We witches would not write a letter of support because we were asked to.

We witches would write a letter of support because WE decided to write a letter of support.

We witches do not respond much to suggestion.

We are independent souls.

We would have said “Go and write your own damned letter of support!”

And in the end, James Johnson had to resign over the letter of support he was asked to write.

A sacrifice.

I can’t recall the Chairman of the Review Group supporting James Johnson then.

When he resigned.

Or maybe he did, and I’ve forgotten.

Can you remember, My Black Cat?

At the time, The Witch Doctor did not feel it was within the remit of the BMA to come to the defense of a doctor (the CMO) in his capacity as a civil servant, particularly when there was such a groundswell of professional displeasure over MTAS.

Support him as a doctor – yes.

Support him as a civil servant – no.

That is why The Witch Doctor felt, at the time, it was right for James Johnson to resign.

And still does.

BMA fees are not paid to support civil servants or doctors when they are in the role of civil servants.



Doctors have to decide which side of the fence they are on. There is a danger when they take on a “management” role nowadays, they become the voice of the government and this can sometimes be at odds with their professional role.

The “creep” creeps insidiously.

As creep does.

And some of these doctors are oblivious that they have crept.

Others know they have crept, but justify their thought and actions to themselves, because it can bring rewards.

But it can also bring grief.

Yes, doctors who become managers/civil servants step on to a precarious tight-rope which few have the balance to safely walk.

The Witch Doctor is curious over the state of Sir Liam Donaldson’s labyrinths.

wordpress stats

redapple.jpg a red apple ……………………

The Witch Doctor – Link to a random page





© | Agency:
© Onefivenine |
© Rtimages |
© Vicnt |
© Ijansempoi |


  1. I agree he cant act for both; the doctors and the government Withch doc but, whose fault is that? Then again, he rejected the idea that he was the ‘leader’ when he attended HSC session 1. In this case, who is? … nobody!

    Get the ‘fragments’ This is how the strategy to conquer was devised ….

    No point blaming individuals now …. it’s well past this stage …. I just hope it is not a totally lost battle already!

  2. and thank you for the beautiful Nile at dusk picture black cat. I think you took it yourself .. 😉

  3. I agree Sam, that the time for blame has passed, indeed I never was sure that any of the current encumbants were really to “blame” although many could have acted differently and changed the course earlier. It is important, though, to understand the very complex background to all of this – even if only to ensure that everyone is alert to what can happen in the future.

    The Select Committee on MMC is helping with this understanding, but I just wonder how many senior members of the medical profession are following this – and taking the time to grasp it all. It is the medical profession themselves who will change things now, I think, but only if they keep up the momentum that MTAS triggered. Until they do, battles may indeed be lost – so keep plodding on Sam!

  4. ‘many could have acted differently and changed the course earlier’

    You think they would’ve been ‘allowed?’

    I think this is the duty of any union, as well as uniting its members and presenting their views in one voice … Why isn’t it?

    You need an Arther Scargil figure in there IMO

    And, … my plodding is driven by wisdom; “ignorance is the mother of devotion” .. Well, at least I am still able to prove something … 🙂

  5. I think the medical profession is a very difficult group to unite and HMG knows this and takes advantage. It’s sometimes remarked that doctors behave as cats – they won’t walk to heel and yet they can unknowingly be swept along with government reforms. A strange paradox.

    Although the BMA is a trade union, it didn’t used to have union status. Many doctors still see it as the place that produces the BMJ and somewhere to go for industrial relations advice if they are annoyed or get into trouble with their employer.

    Also, medical committees tend to stay well within what they perceive is their “remit” and this stops them seeing the whole picture. I think this was what Dame Carol Black was trying to indicate.

    The Birmingham surgeons demonstrated what can be done, and I think a small group of senior doctors (BMA, colleges and deaneries) could have made a move much earlier to stop MTAS in its tracks, whatever excuses are being given now. They wouldn’t have been “allowed” as such but could nevertheless have done it, but as you say, it would have taken unity and that was not forthcoming.

    Your postings on the MMC commitees are great and will give readers excellent insight.

  6. Thank you Witch doc

    I think Dame Carole was indicating this too, this is why I ask why isn’t the BMA taking the role of speaking with a untied voice. Maybe it wasn.t a union before but it is now

    And the Birmingham surgeons is a good model to be followed …
    Did you notice, they said in the HSC that the Midlands deanery was overwhelmed with applications for reasons ‘they could not understand!’ ….. strange!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: