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Independents' Day

BMA calls on GMC to publish review into suicides of doctors facing investigation

The BMA’s annual representatives meeting has voted in favour of a motion calling for the GMC to publish the results of its internal review of suicide in doctors facing a GMC investigation.

The vote comes after the GMC launched an internal review last year of cases where doctors have committed suicide while under a fitness to practise investigation, in an effort to see if it can do more to support vulnerable doctors.

The motion - which was passed with an overwhelming majority - called for the GMC to publish both its review into suicides among doctors facing investigation, and the outcome of the GMC/BMA pilot supporting doctors facing investigation.

It also said the BMA should be offering consistent support to doctors facing GMC investigation.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Professor David Katz, a medical academic, said: ‘The very least that we can expect of the GMC is to live up to their own standards by publishing the outcome of their own review and supporting the programme properly. It’s very difficult for us as doctors and for the BMA to identify exactly what the kind of support is needed by the colleague. We need some evidence from within the GMC… as to exactly how we can support them better.’

‘Do we need to provide them with legal support? Do we need to provide them with better information with about the way that they’ve ensured themselves against malpractice? Or do we need to provide human support and mentoring about the course of the process? We don’t know, and we don’t know because the GMC refuses to give us the necessary information.’

Dr Mark Porter, chair of BMA Council, said: ‘Assuming you pass this, I will be asking for a report on exactly what we need to do and what further members’ resources we need to apply to give a better and more consistent service and support to our members who find themselves with such problems.’

Motion in full

That this Meeting, in the light of the reported deaths of doctors while under GMC investigation, requires:

i. that the GMC publish the results of its internal review of suicide in doctors facing GMC investigation

ii. that the outcome of the GMC-BMA pilot of support for doctors facing investigation be published

iii. that the BMA should offer more consistent support to doctors facing GMC investigations.

Readers' comments (5)

  • Una Coales

    Having personally received numerous calls and emails from doctors referred to the GMC between 2010 and 2014 and some suicidal, the reasons are:

    1. Medical defence orgs practice 'discretion' as to whether they will represent a doctor referred to the GMC. Often BME/IMGs are told their MDO has decided not to represent them even though they have paid their annual fees! This means an IMG has to write his own response back to the GMC complaint without legal support! A typical private lawyer may charge £200/h and £10k to represent at an FTP. I would suggest that the BMA should help by offering legal advice and editing the doctor's response?

    2. The stress then builds as after a doctor sends back a response with details of all employers and PCT/CCG, he or she waits months for the outcome of an initial investigation. He or she iloses confidence and often declines locum work while waiting. His response is seen by a lay person and a medical person. The lay person's decision carries more weight. The decision may be to dismiss or refer up to a fitness to practice panel.

    3. I have listened to an Indian orthopaedic junior doctor who blew the whistle describe how he had to self represent at a GMC FTP hearing as he was referred to the GMC by his trust on mental issues instead of dealing with the concern of risk to patient safety. Awful stress without any legal training. He described his frustrations at having to respond to a barrister's legal jargon.

    4. I have listened to GP trainees and GPs caught in a GMC loophole of assessments after deemed needing to work with conditions which basically makes them unemployable.

    5. I have seen a female GP partner contemplate suicide as she could not find locum work with all the GMC restrictions to her work and could not pay to keep a roof over her head. Even her MP could not get her out of the loop so she resigned her medical licence.

    6. I have seen a salaried GP referred to the GMC by his employer because he allegedly refused a paycut and was caught in a 5 year loop of mcq and sim surgery assessments before he was cleared.

    7. I have seen an Indian male MRCP GP trainee referred by his training practice over handling of a spurious K and the patient came to no harm. It took over a year and expensive lawyers to clear him.

    8. I have dealt with NHS consultant whistleblowers who were referred to the GMC after dismissal for gross misconduct.

    9. I have taken a call from an Indian male GP trainee in Scotland referred to the GMC and given a date for an FTP hearing in the new year, when he failed CSA until bapio intervened and stopped GMC referrals for CSA fails.

    10. Do we need more research as to why doctors commit suicide when referred to the GMC? Please all doctors know you can call for free employment advice and call the free 24/7 BMA counselling phone service. I hope the BMA sorts this out. Perhaps anonymising names on complaints would be the first step to reduce unconscious bias against reading a foreign name on a complaint before the lay and medical GMC assessors as I have also seen how some white male doctors seem to only get 6-12 month suspension for downloading child porn, sexting patients, impregnating the vulnerable yet ethnic GP trainees get referred for minor clinical errors.

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  • sadly nobody cares

    it's all about survival now and looking out for oneself.

    the best advice i've been given is keep your head down and try not to get struck off, have a contingency plan or alternate career when things go belly up.

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  • It seems to me that these cases are not being taken particularly seriously. These are significant events with tragic outcomes and should be referred to a body sitting above the GMC, to assess whether the GMC have a duty of care which would fall under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

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  • Una Coales

    @9:10 pm the GMC answers to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee. Former GP Dr Sarah Wollaston has taken over from Stephen Dorrell as the new chair of this HoCs Health Select Committee and it calls upon the GMC to give regular oral evidence.

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  • Una - Thanks for the link at 5.24am! The HoCs Health Select Committee have asked about time taken to conclude FTP hearings but looking at their website there appears to be little evidence that a discussion regarding deaths during a FTP hearing has taken place. Usually in our society, when the number of deaths is as large as 96, someone somewhere will ask if a crime has taken place but as far as I can tell this possibility seems to have been overlooked.

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