Dozens of doctors have kept their jobs despite being convicted of serious sex offences.
Medical chiefs claim they cannot ban all sex offenders from working because it might breach their human rights.
At least 31 male GPs, consultants and surgeons are practising even after having assaulted women, been in possession of child pornography or solicited prostitutes.
Convictions: Dr Benjamin Obukofe (top) was convicted of two sexual assaults while Dr Nicholas Spicer escaped being struck off despite downloading child-sex stories from the internet
None of their patients have been informed.
Some of those with child pornography offences are even believed to be free to treat children.
Patients’ groups and MPs say people would be horrified to learn a sex offending doctor had examined them.
Among the 31 is Benjamin Obukofe, who was found guilty by a court last year of sexually assaulting two colleagues at Spire Hospital in Leicestershire, including a girl of 17.
Although the married father was given a suspended prison sentence and put on the sex offenders register for seven years, he has not been struck off and will be free to work within a year.
Nicholas Spicer escaped being struck off in 2010 even though he was described by the General Medical Council as a ‘deviant’ for downloading child-sex stories.
He read the paedophile fantasies on his home computer between 2003 and 2007 while working with children as a GP but was cleared of misconduct and allowed to go back to work in another part of the country following a six-month ban.
A gynaecologist in the Wirral kept his licence after being cautioned for soliciting a prostitute.
An investigation by the Daily Mail found that of 31 licensed doctors with convictions for sex offences, four have records of sexual assaults, four have been convicted of child pornography offences, two committed voyeurism or exposure offences and 21 solicited prostitutes or were caught kerb-crawling.
While many are free to practise only under warning and are subject to monitoring, ten are licensed to treat patients, including children, without any sanctions at all.
Three of the doctors with child pornography convictions are allowed to practise without any conditions, the GMC admitted after a freedom of information request. Individual hospitals are free, however, to impose their own sanctions on the doctors.
At least 23 of them are employed at NHS hospitals and GP surgeries across Britain.
One anaesthetist was allowed to carry on working after a three-month suspension for squeezing the breast of a junior member of staff.
Father-of-two Sudhakar Srirama, who practised at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, near Hull, said the incident was a ‘one-off’.
The number of doctors licensed despite convictions or cautions for sex and child pornography offences has almost trebled since 2007.
The GMC insists it inquired about an automatic ban on doctors who are on the sex offenders register but ‘advice was obtained from a leading QC who concluded that an automatic bar, without exceptions, would not be compatible with human rights legislation’.
Niall Dickson, the council’s chief executive, said: ‘Cases of doctors convicted of sexual assault or child pornography offences are very rare and in the vast majority of these cases these doctors are struck off the medical register so they cannot practise medicine in the UK.’
A spokesman added that the decision on whether to strike off a doctor was taken by an independent panel of experts and could not be appealed against by the GMC.
‘The GMC is also looking to automatically strike off doctors who have been convicted of sexual offences. It doesn’t have that power at the moment,’ he added.
‘Patient safety must come first’
Labour MP Virendra Sharma, who sits on the health select committee, said: ‘It is the rights of the patients we should be more concerned with. I will be writing to the health minister to express my concern.’
Tory MP Stephen Dorrell, who chairs the committee, said patients ‘have a right to know’ if they are being treated by doctors with convictions for sex offences.
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said: ‘The GMC has a duty of care to protect the public. It must take all adequate measures to ensure patient safety always comes first.’
Critics of the system want permanent bans on convicted doctors and are concerned that the GMC, which regulates the medics, has no access to the sex offenders register and relies on the police to inform its officials of court sentences.