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Independents' Day

GMC issues references warning

The GMC is warning GPs of the perils of giving inaccurate references – which could land them with huge bills for damages.

The regulatory body has issued new guidance stating that doctors should be prepared to substantiate in court everything they write on a reference.

The guidance follows a GMC review of legal cases concerning the giving of references. In one case an insurance seller won substantial damages after a former employer unfairly gave him a poor reference, rendering him unable to get a job.

The GMC guidance says that doctors should not give a reference that ‘could mislead an employer about either a specific issue, or the overall suitability of a candidate.'

It adds: ‘Only provide comments which you are able to substantiate. Provide comments which are objective, fair and unambiguous. Do not base comments on your personal views about a candidate which have no bearing on the candidate's suitability.'

The GMC is also telling doctors that they must not give an overly favourable reference to a healthcare worker who may actually be a risk to patients.

‘A reference that presents an inaccurate picture of a prospective employee, could lead either to the appointment of an unsuitable candidate or the most suitable not being appointed. In some cases this will put patients at risk of serious harm and it may undermine trust in the profession.'

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