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Independents' Day

Expert to review ‘every stage’ of GMC process to make it more ‘compassionate’

Exclusive The GMC has appointed mental health expert Professor Louis Appleby to interrogate its fitness-to-practise procedures to ensure that it is more ‘compassionate and sensitive’ to the needs of vulnerable doctors.

Professor Appleby has been recruited by the GMC to carry out this work independently and will look at ‘every stage’ of the regulator’s FTP investigation process, following the publication of last year’s GMC review that found 28 doctors had died while under investigation.

The initial review found that doctors can become ‘marginalised’ while under investigation – and had subsequently received little support or compassion from the GMC.

Since then, the GMC has formulated an action plan to implement the recommendations in the review, and it said it has already changed the tone of its correspondence with doctors who are under investigation. 

Another recommendation to establish a national support service for doctors is being established by NHS England.

However, Professor Appleby will look to establish further changes that can be adopted to support doctors who are going through the FTP process, and will examine how the GMC deals with doctors who may be vulnerable.

Professor Appleby’s has already lead the development of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England, which focuses on support for families and prevention of suicide among at-risk groups and is a CQC board member.

He also leads group of more than 30 researchers at the Centre for Mental Health and Safety at the University of Manchester, where he is a Professor of Psychiatry.

The chair of the GMC, Professor Terence Stephenson, said he is ‘determined’ to reduce the pressure of doctors going through FTP.

He said: ‘Over the course of my career I have twice been complained about to the GMC so I know first-hand how difficult the process can be. We are determined to do everything we can to reduce the pressure and anxiety for all doctors in our procedures, particularly where there are health concerns.’

He went on to add that Professor Appleby’s appointment will help the GMC to be more ‘sensitive and compassionate’ for vulnerable doctors.

‘It will always be a stressful experience but we want to offer whatever support we can to help them through the process. We have already made considerable progress in this area over the last 12 months but we know we cannot stop there.

‘Professor Appleby’s impartial advice will be extremely valuable in helping us pinpoint the parts of our procedures that could be more sensitive and compassionate to the needs of these doctors.’

Former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada, medical director of the Practitioner Health Programme – a support service for sick doctors – said: ’shows a shift in the last two or three years at the GMC’.

She added: ‘I think it is good news for everybody – because the pendulum of regulation that is anti-doctor is beginning to swing back to a more healthy place, where doctors can be mentally ill – yet trying their best in very difficult times.’

Professor Appleby will share his proposals at a special workshop with those who have an interest in this area in the Spring of next year.

Image credit: Healthy Social Creative 

Readers' comments (39)

  • What appears to be forgotten in these discussions is the lack of support these doctors receive from some MDO's. They apply a so called discretionary clause to refuse representing these doctors. Read through FTP cases for this year alone and note the number of doctors who had to represent themselves. Some of these doctors had been paying their annual indemnity fees all their professional life.
    Some doctors are also refused indemnity despite the GMC/MPTS allowing them back to practice with no conditions or any restrictions. The same happens to doctors reinstated after erasure. This needs to be properly addressed.

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  • I find this a bit confusing. Are we talking here of change to 'compassionate killing' with sedation so it doesn't hurt?
    Every stage badly damages the morale and it may be worth looking into what actually needs to be taken to fitness to Practice or to investigate and not every random complaint of the likes of 'Doctor was rude'. The general feeling at the grassroots is that GMC is only too ready to start an investigation at the slightest of complaints and I think that perception needs to change.

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  • I don't think you have scratched the surface of how much bullying goes on in 'General Practice' let alone other branches of the profession. I could write a book on my own experience of the threat of NCAS and the GMC used as a weapon against me. Forty three years in one job. No black marks. Full no claims bonus. Two of my sons are lawyers. Trust me the Law Society are pussy cats compared with the GMC and the rest of the terror team. I am sure, can't prove it, there is a whole department that will track down anyone who dares to make a complaint to the GMC. My sons did. There is more you can do with a Law Degree than a Medical Degree, which is why the threat is so utterly devastating to doctors. Our whole identity is tied to the profession we chose. Most of the time doctors will not stick together, where their voices would be heard. They stay below the parapet and hope it will all go away and let them be, just doctors.

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  • Let us not forget the Health Ombudsman who runs a flawed quasi-judicial punitive organisation.

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  • The first line to be removed - "your revalidation is on hold until the outcome of this investigation." Doctors should not be made to feel guilty until they are proven innocent. One vexatious well written letter from people who are often not even patients and have never met the doctor is enough for them to investigate. This needs to be scrapped. only look at letters sent by patients or with the consent of the patient. will the above happen. NEVER.

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  • i suggest pro applyby read comments made by doctors on death of james in pulse . it will help him understand the problem. it is not mental health only bout several other issues to be addressed.

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  • Has anyone yet come up with a reasonable explanation why MPTS hearings mainly affect male foreign doctors?

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  • action plan:

    1. Integrate "emotional resilience" training into the GP training programme.

    2. Change correspondence from "Yours Damningly" to "Yours Sincerely"

    Job done

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  • Anonymous | Salaried GP03 Dec 2015 1:19pm

    Lack of Estrogen.

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  • Too little too late. The whole system should be reformed from top to bottom. This is just superficial pr which will change NOTHING.
    Pathetic really this response from GMC.

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