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Independents' Day

GMC outlines core principles of new doctor support service

The GMC and healthcare leaders have outlined a number of core principles needed to develop a national support service for doctors, following last year’s review into doctors who have died while under investigation by the regulator.

The principles, which were agreed at a meeting hosted by the GMC last week, are aimed at a range of organisations for their consideration to potentially fund a doctor support service. Many of the organisations were represented at the meeting – including NHS England and the Department of Health.

Other attendees at the meeting included the BMA, the royal colleges, the Practitioner Health Programme, and the medical defence unions .

Some of the core points needed to set up a doctor support service include ensuring that support services are separate from the GMC and are confidential so that doctors have confidence to self-refer.

The move to establish the foundations of the doctor support service comes months after a damning independent review found that 28 doctors had died by suicide while under investigation by the GMC.

The review subsequently outlined recommendations for the GMC to implement – all of which the regulator accepted – including to establish a national support service for doctors and introducing emotional resilience training.

But GMC chair Professor Terence Stephenson previously told Pulse that any new support service for doctors would not be provided by the GMC – however, he added that he supported calls for a model similar to the Practitioner Health Programme in London being rolled out nationwide.

The principles agreed for the support service, include:

  • Services should be separate from the GMC and seen to be separate.
  • Must be liaison with the GMC where there is a risk to patient safety.  
  • Clear rules around information disclosure and the relationship with the GMC so that doctors are not discouraged from accessing help.
  • Systems in place within organisations to encourage early awareness and early intervention.
  • Services must be accessible and confidential if doctors are to have the confidence to self-refer and disclose.
  • Recognition that there are particular stresses affecting doctors and barriers to their accessing local services.
  • The business case for developing services needs to be made strongly to potential funders, using evidence from existing services. 

GMC chief executive, Niall Dickson, said that ‘a clear case had been made for better support for vulnerable doctors, but warned that the challenge facing the system is that services are not available.’

He added: ‘The case for better support for vulnerable doctors has been clearly demonstrated by the amazing work that is already under way. The challenge facing the system as a whole is that such services are not found everywhere.

‘We will certainly work with experts in this area to encourage the development of better support as well as seeking their help as we reform the way we deal with this group of doctors within our procedures.’

Last week, Pulse revealed that the GMC is proposing to introduce emotional resilience traininig as an integral part of medical training.


Readers' comments (11)

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  • As a doctor who is currently undergoing a FTP hearing, all I can say is - about time.

    I really hope that something positive comes of all this, and I welcome the statements given above, but with one caveat.

    The study into the 28 doctors who committed suicide failed to address the most important question of all - how many of those doctors had no history of mental illness at the time when their GMC investigation began?

    Instead, the report - and subsequent statements such as those made by Niall Dickson above - all infer that only 'vulnerable doctors' - doctors with a pre-existing mental illness or addiction, need support. That rather misses the point for two reasons. Firstly, it suggests that the doctors were somehow to blame for their suicides, because they weren't resilient enough. Hence, a little resilience training will make it all better (despite the fact there is no evidence that it would). If one of those doctors had been a loved one of mine, I would be deeply offended by that conceit.

    Secondly, it fails to recognise that the problems lie in the fitness to practice procedures themselves, which take too long, are not open or transparent and, no matter what the GMC says, DO treat doctors as guilty until proved innocent. I know that from bitter personal experience.

    The GMC's procedures do not only endanger the lives of 'vulnerable doctors' - they make doctors vulnerable in the first place.

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  • This odious organisation sent me a request to renew my license a couple of weeks back.

    I'm early 30's live abroad now and am far away enough from these creatures that there tentacles cannot teach me....... Funny thing i rang the imbeciles a few months back to ask how to relinquish my registration, was told I needed a certificate of good standing from my current equivalent where I am abroad. After investigating this I discovered that the folk here will charge me close to fifth quid to send this to the gmc in order for me to relinquish my license. I then rang the gmc to ask them and they said id have to pay in order to voluntarily relinquish my license!!! I then asked the lady on the other end of the phone line what would happen if I refused to pay my annuals subs.........the line went quiet and she said that they would have to remove me!!!!!!

    Problem solved idiots !!! I won't be paying you a penny more....EVER!!! So up yours!!!

    A formerly very disgruntled ex uk GP partner who now resides abroad and has no intention of ever coming back to work in TSFKAB (that sh&thole formerly known as Britain)

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  • Vinci Ho

    One aspect of this reform is that it needs to show its 'values' in the future round(s) of independent review and demonstrate these casualties of doctors during GMC investigations will be at least substantially reduced .
    Hence , is there a plan of another independent review in future and when?

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  • ....strangely doctors who have had adverse GMC judgments are not being allowed to be part of this support mechanism-would have thought they were ideally placed to help...

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  • I am an Asian GP, which may or may not have some bearing, who has been through these Fitness to Practise procedures with the GMC. I am being completely honest when I say that the GMC did their utmost to see me guilty unless I could prove myself innocent (which is not always possible, especially when lies are made against you)-it's crazy-their barristers tried to make me out to be an unfit doctor even when there are only minor concerns about me. They even used fancy wording to twist things in their favour against me so that a totally innocent thing was made to look like it was a totally guilty thing-this is not what I expected from what is expected to be a mature fair organisation. You can face being struck off for a minor issue-even if patients were not at risk (which happened to me). Thankfully I wasn't struck off but for the GMC barrister to actually request this for the minor issue at hand was unbelievable. They don't allow you to record the procedure in any way either so you can report them (!). I am lost for words for what I have experienced and even wonder whether someone else, behind the curtain, was asking the GMC barrister to try and get the maximum damage for me (i.e. shadowy figures in power). The barrister was actually a friend of the intermediatery person and was hanging out with him throughout the days of the Hearing.

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  • 15 July 2015 11:19am

    nobody i know likes the GMC or has a good word to say about it,

    we are all hoping that the GMC will get their comeuppance.

    this will happen when the cardigan wearers finally retire and leave matters to younger more militant doctors who will give the BMA, GMC, and RCGP what they deserve - it's just a matter of time.

    the GMC gets away with things because they have a cosy relationship with the BMA and RCGP i.e. no accountability.

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  • "Last week, Pulse revealed that the GMC is proposing to introduce emotional resilience traininig as an integral part of medical training." TADAAA problem solved.
    How about you train your doctors properly and also teach them how to say NO. Recognise that working beyond mental and physical capacity for prolonged periods is unacceptable regardless. Idiots.

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  • GMC is considered a good tool to weed out 'inconvenient GPs' as I learned 3 years ago.
    At the time, I was struggling to get my GMS Contract back and PCT and NHSE had gone on the warpath and set a date for closure of the Practice. A local 'Commercial Director' of an APMS Provider who professed to be a former 'Medical Director' of a North London PCT advised me to give up the Practice and leave as I would be struck off if I did not. This chap had an interest in my Contract as his Company was being paid £250 per patient at the time.
    When asked if the PCT could do that, his response was- 'That's what we do' He further explained the modus operandi-
    If the Doctor is being difficult, we escalate the complaint to a higher level and send it off to GMC and since it is coming from the PCT, the GMC strikes you off straightaway' He went on to brag that he had actually got somebody struck off in North London.
    This is an old story I have repeated again and again. I wonder who that Doctor was in North London who was struck off with escalation of a complaint to GMC by collusion of the Medical Director with the PCT/NHSE and . The pity is that this 'Com Director' is a RO and a 'National Commissioning Champion'.
    Fortunately, the APMS Provider parted with him after this incident came to light.
    The GMC would do well to look at issues surrounding complaints especially those backed by the local authorities as there may be vested interests involved. In my case, they passed the examination with flying colours as it seems they did take this into account at a later stage when a complaint was raised.

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  • Every doctor in the UK is fearful of the GMC and a fitness to practice hearing.

    I've personally seen these people destroy the career of a local doctor that used to work in my area. This occurred whilst I was a gp trainee and I bought the issue up with my gp trainer and remember being given a tutorial on how to avoid a gmc complaint/ hearing- we discuses the usual issues such as communication, good documentation etc. However things have got much much worse since those days in the mid early 2000s. Now they've changed the rules on burden of proof in cases and also increased access for people to contact them if they wish to raise a complaint. People can send off a complaint against you directly to them and bypass local organisations (old pct etc)

    I feel for a couple of the posters above who have commented on their personal stories and have no doubt that the organisation has become sinister - take a look at the 28 deaths of doctors undergoing fitness to practice hearings.

    They've never been able, despite numerous studies, to explain why BME doctors are far more likely to be struck off after FTP hearings?? This after years and years of concerns being raised and studies being conducted. I even attended an LMC conference some years ago ( as an LMC rep) when this issue was raised and a gmc employee was taking questions on it.

    Anyway, be that as it may, if it is prejudiced it's become far more poisonous over the past few years to the point at which doctors of all colours creeds and nationalities working here, need to unite against it and being it back down to earth. It is a regulator and needs to maintain a neutral position in FTP hearings and establish the truth based on fair principals such as "innocent until proven guilty". Also it should be an investigator of last resort and should not be allowed to be accessed by any tom dick and Harry who may have a grudge against a doctor and bypasses local protocols..

    Thank goodness I've emigrated and these people no longer have a say in my life and career!! What a relief reading all this!!

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