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GMC concerned about doctors exploiting coronavirus fears

The General Medical Council (GMC) has raised concerns that some doctors are “exploiting patients’ vulnerability” and are seeking to make hundreds of thousands of pounds selling private coronavirus tests to people worried that they may have been infected with the virus.

The GMC said no doctor should try to “profit from the fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic”.

The regulator’s warning followed reports that Dr Mark Ali, who runs a clinic called the Private Harley Street Clinic, made a £1.7m profit selling £2.5m worth of tests in less than a week.

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The Sunday Times claimed that Ali boasted to a reporter that he had “done quite well actually” selling 6,664 tests for £375 each. The tests Ali is selling are bought via a third party from testing centre Randox Laboratories, which sells the tests for £120. The tests have not been approved by Public Health England.

Ali denies saying he has made £1.7m profit. When approached by the Guardian, he declined to state how much money he has made. It is understood that he claimed he had been misquoted.

A spokesperson for the GMC said: “We would be concerned to learn that doctors are exploiting patients’ vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge, in order to profit from the fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

“We also expect doctors to be clear about the safety and accuracy of Covid-19 tests, and not to offer or recommend tests that are unproven, clinically unverified and or otherwise unreliable.”

Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said he was disgusted to learn of Ali’s alleged profiteering.

“This is an unprecedented public health crisis,”he said. “It has to be a national priority to ramp up testing, especially for our NHS staff, and the government must stamp out this exploitative action.”

Despite its name, Ali’s business does not have a clinic on Harley Street. It is believed to be operated from Ali’s flat in north London. The Private Harley Street Clinic is not registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) healthcare provider regulator.

A spokesman for the CQC said: “If the provider is just selling a home testing for the customer to take their own sample to send it away we would not see this as a regulated activity and would therefore not fall into the scope of regulation. However, the lab that does the analysis may need to be CQC registered for the RA [regulated activity] of ‘diagnostic and screening procedures’.”

Randox Laboratories, the lab Ali is using for testing, did not respond to requests for comment. Ali is said to be buying the tests via Screen4, a third-party. Screen4 declined to comment.

Ali had previously ordered more than £100,000 worth of testing kits from Recovery4Life, a Newcastle-based company. However, John Devitt, managing director of Recovery4Life, said he cancelled the contract with Ali due to concerns that Ali was “seeking to profiteer at a time of national crisis”. Ali declined to comment on the cancellation.


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