Two doctors with same name cause Times letter confusion

20 October 2021
What was claimed

A letter to The Times newspaper was signed by a Mr Martin Spiro. Records from the General Medical Council show that the only Martin Spiro registered died five years ago.

Our verdict

There are two Martin Spiros, as confirmed by the General Medical Council. One of them voluntarily removed themselves from the Council’s register in 1993. Their record was subsequently not uploaded when the register was digitised in 2005.

A Facebook post claims that a letter published in The Times on 16 October 2021 claims to be from a doctor that died five years ago. The post also gathered a lot of attention on Twitter. 

The letter writer, Martin Spiro, who spoke about his time as a medical student, wrote to the paper arguing in favour of face-to-face doctors appointments in light of growing debate between the government and GPs over the issue. 

However, the Facebook post claims the only Martin Spiro registered as a doctor on the General Medical Council’s (GMC) register died in 2016. 

The post said: “Dear The Times Newspaper. I see that you have published a GP-bashing letter from Mr Martin Spiro FRCS today. Would you also like to publish a summary of his obituary in the British Medical Journal from 1st February 2016?

“PS: I've checked the GMC register; there is/was only one Mr Martin Spiro.”

While it’s true that a Dr Martin Spiro died in 2016, as recorded by the GMC and the British Medical Journal, there are actually two Martin Spiros who have been registered by the GMC. 

A spokeswoman for the GMC told Full Fact the second Martin Spiro had voluntarily removed his name from the register in November 1993, meaning he was already off the register when it was digitised in 2005. 

She added: “Doctors who didn’t have GMC registration on that date do not appear on the online version of the register – but the information on their medical register entries is still disclosable.”

In the letter to The Times, Martin Spiro discloses his membership of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) with the abbreviation FRCS (Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons). This membership can be found on the RCS’ website. 

Full Fact has been in touch with a Martin Spiro, of the same address as appeared in the Times’ letter, who confirmed that he wrote the message. He added that this was not the first time that the two Martin Spiro’s had caused confusion. 

The other Dr Martin Spiro, whose obituary was published by the BMJ in 2016, was a radiologist, not a surgeon. 

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false two Martin Spiros were on the GMC register; one is not mentioned on the council’s online record.

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