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GPs go forth

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)

  • My heart goes out to all my colleagues who have had such nightmarish experiences with the GMC. After having read the articles I just felt compelled to tell my story . I am a 56 year old retired GP and was a senior partner in an inner city practice and a GP trainer in the last 4 years of my career . I suppose my biggest advantage and emotional support is the fact that I always wanted to retire at 55 and managed to do so as my pension payout was healthy and at the same time my legacy of my good name with the patients I had served for 30 years . 4 years ago we were frauded by our ex-practice manager who eventually went to Prison . He ,anonymously , submitted 2 separate written complaints to the GMC alleging that I had committed various illegal activities . The GMC ,notwithstanding the fact that he had been convicted of fraud immediately launched 2 separate investigations on my practice which both took well over 2 years to conclude . I was horrified to learn that the GMC could take such a step just from an anonymous complaint . It left me so despondent and completely devastated by both the NHS ENGLAND and the GMC that I am not surprised why there is a shortage of doctors wanting to work for this totalitarian regime !! Furthermore , you are ,indeed , guilty until proven innocent.

    Secondly, to make matters worse and possibly as an aftermath of the above ,one of our salaried doctors who had been employed by the practice manager whistle blew about my clinical practice ,something that could have been easily sorted out in house . BOTH NHS ENGLAND AND THE GMC decided to launch simultaneous investigations and despite having agreed to everything they wanted me to do (almost like a dog wagging his tail at each and every command of his master) they have introduced one hurdle after another to the point that I had to seek psychiatrist help . I can so clearly see why doctors kill themselves and I certainly did not have a h/o of suicidal tendencies in the past;IF anything I was the most resilient doctor having multi tasked and played t so many roles to the point that the practice became a teaching one which was the culmination of my career . My only downside was that I was very outspoken with the authorities because my personality is such that if I feel the profession is being treated unfairly I will be the first one to speak out . I have NO DOUBT in my mind that there are powers both at NHS ENGLAND AND THE GMC who deliberately seek to weed out those doctors who don't fit their agenda . The way is see it is , they have lost out because I will be taking my services and my skills abroad .

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