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RCGP chair calls for 'urgent review' of support for doctors under GMC investigation

RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada has called for an ‘urgent review’ of the impact of GMC investigations, after she claimed that the time taken to review cases was adversely affecting the finances and mental health of doctors.

Professor Gerada claimed that many of the doctors using the mental health and addiction advice service she helps run in London were being investigated by the GMC and were being forced to claim benefits as they could not work.

Professor Gerada – who is medical director for the Practitioner Health Programme in London - cited figures from a 2012 review of cases handled by the advice service that showed 29% were also involved with the GMC or General Dental Council, the vast majority of whom were diagnosed with a mental health condition and potentially had a number of co-morbidities.

The comments come after the GMC began an internal review of potential suicides by doctors under FTP investigations in September. It also recently announced that the regulator had already adopted a ‘new tone’ in communications with doctors at risk of self-harm.

Professor Gerada said on the social media site, Twitter that she thought a lot could be learnt from the suffering of those undergoing GMC investigations.

She said: ‘I think delays, the costs of proceedings and disproportionate nature of sanctions needs urgent review.

She added: ‘PHP has many patients (doctors) who have to claim benefit whilst waiting for their GMC hearing. Justice delayed, is justice denied.’

Professor Gerada recognised that although the GMC had improved its approach and handling of cases where a doctor is under investigation for health reasons, there are ‘still significant delays in the system’.

Separately, she told Pulse: ‘More often than not a doctor is suspended whilst investigations are carried out and whilst awaiting a fitness to practise hearing. This can take up to 15 to 18 months and if the doctor is suspended many cannot earn money - for example if they are locum posts, fix term contacts, private practice or in some cases their employer sacks them.

‘A significant number of doctors in our service who are involved in GMC processes have financial issues as a result of delay - and some are forced to sign on for benefits and to borrow money.’

‘The GMC are reviewing suicides and death of doctors whilst under their processes but maybe it’s time to look at the financial as well as psychological side of the process.’

The GMC reiterated an earlier statement from chief executive Niall Dickson who said that they were already looking into better support for doctors under investigation.

He said: ‘We are piloting meetings with doctors to hear their side of the story earlier and we have commissioned the BMA’s Doctors for Doctors service to provide confidential emotional support to any doctor involved in a fitness to practise case who wants it.’

Related images

  • Dr Clare Gerada RCGP Chair August 2011 online
  • Richmond House - DH - Department of Health - online

Readers' comments (14)

  • I really hope something can be done about the delay in GMC investigations....It is awful the way the GMC are handling the investigations...They are destroying doctors future and livelihood ....something has to be done...

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  • Abdul QADRI

    It seems majority of comments have been deleted and yet professor Claire Geralda wants to hear the real concerns of the Doctors.
    As soon as GMC gets involved in any case, Doctors try to seek help from Medical Defence agencies. I remember a case where a male patient of mine took sick note for 1 week as he had some kind of stress at work as he put it. He didn't want to discuss the problem further. After one week , he left message at the reception to have 2 more weeks sick note to get better. I issued certificate & left message with the receptionist to book appointment if he wants more certificate or to discuss any problem. After another 3 weeks , there was a news article in the local paper with his picture , reporting that he had killed himself and his 4 children in the car after setting it on fire. Obviously we were shocked to see that and had no clue for the reason behind it as his wife and children were not registered with me.
    I looked into my records and entered the notes on a new card as the writing in the old card wasn't that clear. At the time we were not using computer for consultations. After a week or so , Detective came to see me to get the copies of the attendance notes from me. I contacted medical defence and informed them about the case. They appointed a lawyer from the city who came to my home as I was off sick for 2 weeks due to back problem and stress. Solicitor took statement and copies of the notes. 2 days after meeting the Solicitor , my wife who was practice Manager pointed out to me that , we didn't tell him that the last clean card notes were written afterwards as the original were not written clearly. So the real HELL started when I informed the solicitor. He decided to involve Medical defence & sent his Junior Solicitor to see me. He interrogated me and my staff about the case. Afterwards , I got a call from Medical Defence union that one of them is coming to see me at the Solicitirs office in London to make sure that the contents on the new card are accurate , otherwise they wouldn't be representing me at the Coronors hearing if am called. You can understand the stress it caused to me & my family. My wife and my cousin who is professor in Kings College hospital accompanied me for moral support. Both of them were told to wait outside and I was alone with the Senior Solicitor , junior Solicitor & the representative from defence medical union ( who was so tight lipped ).
    They interrogated me for 3 hours and the Senior Solicitor kept on reminding me that they have to make sure that the contents of the new page is accurate , otherwise I would have to face GMC. During 3 hours, I wanted to runaway miles from that room but had to think about my family and mortgage. After 3 hours , medical defence representative commented, the entry in the new card are accurate and they will be representing me at Coroners hearing if I am called. Finally solicitor prepared a statement for the detective and I received a bill of around £ 12000.00 to pay for the time wasted : From the time I reported to the Solicitors about the entry of the consultation on the new card to the satisfactory conclusion of my honesty at the Solicitors office with the medical defence union representative. In the chargeable sheet there were items entered that upset me most when my worried wife used to ring junior Solicitor crying out to get reassurance that case will not go to GMC and the solicitor was timming the call and charging accordingly. I didn't have a clue that my wife is being charged for her crying on the phone.
    At the end , the irony is this: THE CORONORS OFFICE didn't bother to call me. I had nothing to do with the case. My Patient had marital problems & was about to get divorce. Social services were involved and my patient had seen Psychiatrist privately in Harley Street and I wasn't informed by anybody about his marital issues or any psychiatric treatment.
    Thank heavens , I have just retired in March this year after working in Geberal Practice for 30 years. Doctors are professional people but are very vulnerable before GMC, Medical defence agencies and of coarce Solictors. Besides they have to worry about CCG targets , CQC visits and last but not the least Patients Satisfaction. It is no surprising that the stress related tragedies among Gps & Dentists is rather alarming. I honestly feel sorry for the new breed of Doctors who will have to take care of their families and mortgages if God forbid things go wrong. Our so called Supportive organisations like GMC, Medical defence don't care. It is high time that some form of real support system is in place to prevent further tragedies.

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  • I think the plight and social consequences on doctors INVESTIGATED by the GMC is common knowledge to the RCGP and its trainers, thus lending a potential for abuse in the hands of those imps in position of authority. This is unimaginable power to "responsible officers". If every other professional groups and politicians had their lives put on hold for 15 to 18 months on account of "allegations" the issue would have been seen for what it really is; a disgusting and whitewashed legalised lynching by a xenelastic few. The issues clearly identified are serious and need to be challenged by Medical defence organisations who were privy to the process from the start.
    Granted, as prescribed by the oath we swore, there needs to be robust patient protection, but the needless destruction of beautiful lives and careers (of doctors who have not caused any harm or death to those for which they had a duty of care) through lengthy and dodgy delays during Fitness to Practice investigations must stop. Criminal offences need to go to the police and not referred

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  • I believe the GNC should be abolished.If there is a patient harm caused by Dr negligence then the court should look into this matter.Judges know the law and how justice should be applied .GMC members I am afraid are not up to the standard

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