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Independents' Day

GPs must 'exercise professional judgement' over treating loved ones, GMC says

GPs can treat themselves and members of their family in an emergency, the GMC has said.

GPs should not ‘abandon’ common sense or risk patient safety by following GMC guidance, which states GPs should avoid treating themselves or loved ones wherever possible, GMC chief executive Niall Dickson wrote in a letter to Pulse.

He was writing in response to criticism from Bristol GP trainer and Pulse blogger, Dr Shaba Nabi, who said that the regulations ‘shackled’ GPs who feared that they would face disciplinary action for self-prescribing.

Mr Dickson explained that doctors must understand that objectivity was ‘essential’ for good care but also exercise their professional judgement.

He wrote: ‘‘Objectivity is essential to good clinical care – that is why our guidance does advise that, wherever possible, doctors should avoid giving medical treatment to themselves or anyone with whom they have a close personal relationship.’

‘That does not mean abandoning common sense or worse putting patient safety at risk. Of course doctors must exercise their professional judgement – and in an emergency it would obviously be wrong not to treat, if there were no alternative.’

He added that GPs should use the principles of ‘Good Medical Practice’ and other GMC guidance to determine the best course of action in a given situation, and they should ensure they document any action taken.


Readers' comments (9)

  • Well done on pointing out the obvious Shaba . At least some reality is starting to trickle in.

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  • I would suspect any GP exercising such prerogative of treatment of a relative in an emergency will still be at risk of being reported to GMC.

    Such is the current regulatory environment, for better or worse.

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  • Mr Dickson says that, "doctors must exercise their professional judgement"
    This is all very well until one is facing a FTP panel whose job it is to question your professional judgement, despite that fact that doctors are perfectly capable of being objective when managing common conditions within their sphere of knowledge. It is time for the GMC to withdraw this guidance. It is immoral.

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  • A reductionist, inflexible GMP Guidance which lacks common-sense or practicality is not fit for purpose. It would be only a matter of time or some pedantic manager before most doctors could find themselves unreasonably before a FTP panel. No wonder doctors are stressed out and leaving the profession or emigrating.

    A mass exodus of GPs is not helped by the GMC in any way currently.

    I am a part-time partner, locum and special interest GP varying my week - too risky to keep "all eggs in one basket" anymore. Appalled at state this Government and collective Leaders of our profession have got us into....

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  • yep, and then with they wonder why burnout, stress, depression and suicide are getting more common amongst doctors.

    Doctors are losing confidence in the GMC so how on earth are patients to have confidence that our regulatory framework is fair and effective.

    How many doctors are to lose their livelihoods, house and reputation whilst a geologically slow GMC FTP procedures runs its course? There are not infrequent cases where doctors (& their families) are destroyed only to be cleared or given light sanctions.

    The most overwhelmingly obvious risks to patient safety and good quality care are unsustainable workloads, depleted morale and Governemnt under-resourcing.

    Not to mention orchestrated underming (by The Daily Mail) etc

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  • Knut Schroeder

    Strange - we're encouraging lay people to self-care more (and rightly so), while the GMC asks medical professionals, who have had the training, to avoid doing so. It's time we have more specific and measured guidance by the GMC - guidance that encourages appropriate self care by doctors and discourages only those self treatments that really do require assessment by another practitioner.

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  • As workloads increase beyond dangerous levels there will be more reporting to the GMC, for sure, because doctors have not the time in their 100 mph daily routine to be as exact as they would like to be. I, for one, have done over 700 weekends of 80 hours with 3-4 hour sleep. How come the GMC, with all its silly guidelines, does not have a guideline on safe working or patients seen in a day, eg 10 hours in 24 hours and 30 patients for GPs and 20 for A+E consultants as a starter. This guideline would be important for patient and doctor safety, but the GMC never does that.
    It is patently obvious whose side they are on.
    You can see it in Pulse - the distress of the jobbing GP.

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  • Who are the high and mighty at the GMC who have ordained this ban on treating family?

    This is an organisation run for the benefit of GPs and I don't remember any vote which put this in place.

    Just because some ivory tower doctors have achieved political power doesn't mean they actually speak for all doctors, especially where they are making judgements limiting care which is the key skill of all doctors.

    Not prescribing controlled drugs for family or friends unless there is a genuine emergency and you are willing to declare that you have is entirely reasonable.

    Failing to provide care for anyone who needs it is unjustifiable, and goes against the basic Hippocratic oath.

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  • Now moved to Australia, where this would be completely laughed at. Australia's not perfect by any means and is rough round the edges in some ways, but this kind of precious, jobsworth idiocy doesn't quite seem to have taken root. There are still some avenues where common sense applies and long may it last.

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