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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GMC extends fitness-to-practise emotional support programme

GPs and other doctors going through fitness-to-practise investigations will continue to be able to access a free emotional support service.

The GMC said it has extended its contract with the BMA, which provides the service, for another 12 months until at least April 2018.

The Doctor Support Service has been up and running since a successful pilot in 2012 and has been accessed by more than 500 doctors, according to the GMC.

Doctors do not need to be BMA members to access the service, which is also available to doctors going through a GMC licence-to-practise withdrawal process.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said the contract extension comes as anonymised feedback showed that ’doctors find it very helpful and reassuring to be able to talk, in confidence, to other doctors’.

He said: ’Many doctors will be the subject of a complaint at some point in their career, and the GMC has a legal obligation to investigate any allegations which suggest patients could be at risk as a result of a doctor breaching our standards.

’We know an investigation can be stressful, for everyone involved, and we are doing what we can to lessen the stress both on doctors and complainants.’

The head of the BMA Doctors for Doctors Unit, Dr Michael Peters, said: ’What makes this service unique is the confidential peer-to-peer advice we offer from someone who can truly understand what callers are going through, allowing us to best look after doctors so they can best look after patients.

‘Investigations into a doctor’s practice can be extremely stressful regardless of the outcome, and so it’s important to help doctors to cope with this process.’

The emotional support service was launched following internal and external inquiries into doctor suicides linked to GMC investigations.

The news comes as Pulse revealed that the number of doctors investigated by the GMC fell to the lowest level in almost a decade last year, by one-third compared to 2015, amid its new ’more discerning approach’.

The GMC said it pays BMA for the service, but could not disclose the value of the contract because it was commercially sensitive.

Doctors can call the Doctor Support Service on 020 7383 6707 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, or email them at doctorsupportservice@bma.org.uk

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