The NAO had found that many of the suspensions were unnecessary. It said that for the 14 months to July 2002, paid absence cost £11m and £29 million was spent on the provision of cover for missing staff.
The report pointed to the burden on families where suspensions had stretched on for years without resolution. It also indicated that the Bristol heart surgeon and Shipman scandals might have encouraged a culture in which action against medical staff was taken too lightly.
Increasing numbers of doctors have faced suspension in the past 10 years, with a proliferation of court cases and high-profile General Medical Council hearings.
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Dr Richard Willis provides a several thousand-year history lesson of the profession, from origin to modern-day