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Independents' Day

GPs 'practise in fear' due to GMC, LMCs say

The GMC has created a climate where GPs ‘practise in fear’ and should put a duty to protect and support GPs under investigation on a par with their duty to protect patients.

GP leaders at the annual LMCs conference in London today voted unanimously that the GMC’s regulatory processes were damaging care by making GPs more risk averse.

Although Scottish LMCs had already voted in favour of this motion, the UK wide vote also commits the GPC to raise this with the GMC, including pushing for the full adoption of the recommendations of an independent report into the GMC Fitness to Practise processes.

The report into 114 suicides of doctors under Fitness to Practise processes by Sarndrah Horsfall called for a national pastoral support service to be set up for doctors under investigation, amongst other recommendations.

Pulse has been campaigning for greater support for  GPs through its Battling Burnout campaign, and  revealed last month that new GMC chair… had called for a scheme similar to London’s Practitioner Health Programme.

Speaking in response to the motion today, GPC negotiator Dr Dean Marshall revealed that implementing the support service had stalled because ‘they don’t think they should pay for it’.

But he added that the GMC have begun improving their FTP processes, including training their staff to recognise extreme stress in doctors, and reviewing the ‘tone of voice’ of communications.’

The motion also called for ‘GPs being investigated for alleged misdemeanors should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise’, and all parts were passed unanimously.

Proposing the motion Dr John Ip from Glasgow LMC told delegates: ‘At hearings, the GMC invariably presses for the harshest penalties, sometimes regardless of the evidence.

‘And when there is no case to answer after the protracted proceedings, it is exceptional for there to be any apology or explanation, by the GMC to those doctors whose lives have been turned upside down.’

‘Is it any wonder that the manner in which GMC chooses to investigate these doctors, together with the shameful absence of a comprehensive occupational health service, has both tragic and devastating consequences.’

Motion in full

AGENDA COMMITTEE to be proposed by the SCOTTISH CONFERENCE OF LMCs: That conference:
                (i)    believes that the GMC is creating a climate where doctors practice in fear for their registration
                (ii)   demands that GPs being investigated for alleged misdemeanours should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise
                (iii)  demands that the GMC implement the recommendations of the independent report by Sarndrah Horsfall, ‘Doctors who commit suicide while under GMC fitness to practise investigation’.


Readers' comments (11)

  • Having just come out of a vexatious GMC referral, this is the wording. "person x has made a comlaint against you which we are going to investigate" "your revalidation, if is due has been put on hold" "you must discuss this with your appraiser". This is followed by a letter from the "poor performance team"! of your local area asking for details of all complaints (really, even the complaints which are totally nonsense) then long periods of waiting without any indication of what is going on. Then a letter from the lawyers saying their "our legal team have asked for an expert to comment on the care you have given to your patient". finally a letter to say "your care of the patient did not fall below that of a reasonably competent GP". no appology, nothing. this is after having done nothing wrong except for one person (who was not even present at any consultations) of wrong doing. its no wonder weaker or more stressed doctors commit suicide as you are made to feel like a criminal from the beginning and it is "guilty until proven innocent." letters and emails are harsh and impersonal. This needs to change. IMMEDIATLEY

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  • After one of these, no one will take any risk what so ever. I now investigate everything, refer anything and take no risks if any doubt. as it says, I live in fear of the GMC and this has changed my practice to the defensive doctor not worried about resources or the NHS as a whole, just the patient in front of me and my own risk of practicing as a doctor. Give in to all demands for referrals and tests. It costs nothing but will prevent complaints later on. As nike said, "just do it"

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  • This is a scandal that won't go away. It will keep burning away like the other great miscarriages of justice of our times such as child abuse by MPs and celebrities . Unfortunately the LMC proposal does not go far enough. Nothing less than a judicial public enquiry will suffice.

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • I have been lucky enough to survive 30 years in medicine without such a complaint. I am well aware that this is more due to luck than judgement and my heart goes out to all those affected.
    The current policy has, however, affected me severely. I have decided to quit while I am ahead as I am aware that the chances of remaining complaint free are diminishing all the time. I have therefore left medicine at the age of 54 and the NHS have lost 11 years of my services.
    I am quite sure that I am not alone.

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  • It is a box coding exercise and duplication of data. Pointless exercise made by MBA graduates who have no idea of front line care.

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  • A lot of these concerns were raised in this paper:
    The impact of complaints procedures on the welfare, health and clinical practise of 7926 doctors in the UK: a cross-sectional survey

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  • increasingly practice managers and other managers with no qualifications whatsoever are finding organisations like the GMC and CQC easy option organisations where there own lack of ability is matched by their overwhelming desire to criticise and demoralise front line staff

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  • GMC is just one big witch hunt against all Doctors.

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  • Many years ago I was advised by an eminent person on the GMC to resign from registration with the GMC immediately when I retired: apparently there is a dangerous period for complaints to the GMC in the 6 months following retirement .
    These days, before accepting a request to be removed from the register, the GMC demands a letter from your last employer saying that there are no outstanding complaints.
    What would happen if I simply cancelled my direct debit?
    And is there any legal basis for the assertion by either CQC or the GMC that they are each able to prevent me retiring from medicine if I so decide?

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  • Dear Anonymous | GP Partner | 23 May 2015 8:16am

    Under ‘The General Medical Council (Voluntary Erasure and Restoration following Voluntary Erasure) Regulations Order of Council 2004’ the legislation requires that all applicants submit a statement that they are unaware of any matters that might lead to an investigation or consideration of their fitness to practise, a similar statement from their current organisation with which they have a contract to provide medical services and a Certificate of Current Professional Status from the GMC before the medical doctor may 'disassociate' membership from the GMC.

    The Medical Act 1983 allows the regulatory body to investigate any ‘complaint’ up to 5 years from referral.

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