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GMC: ‘Solely’ turning down Covid vaccine will not trigger FTP investigation

GMC: ‘Solely’ turning down Covid vaccine will not trigger FTP investigation

The GMC has said that a doctor being unvaccinated against Covid will not, by itself, trigger a fitness-to-practise (FTP) investigation.

It comes as the health secretary wrote to the GMC and other medical regulators to emphasise the importance of Covid vaccination – ensuring that their guidance sent ‘a clear message’ to registrants – after deciding to scrap mandatory vaccines last week.

A joint statement, issued today by the GMC and Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, did stress that Covid vaccination is a ‘professional duty’, however it also clarified non-vaccination alone was not sufficient to launch FTP proceedings.

The statement said: ‘While the GMC does not consider that solely turning down vaccination would in itself form the basis of a fitness-to-practise referral, doctors have a professional duty to protect patients from risks posed by their health, and to be immunised against common serious communicable diseases, unless contraindicated.’

The GMC has not updated its Good Medical Practice guidance to specifically refer to Covid vaccination.

But the joint statement added: ‘The GMC and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges have consistently made clear that in the case of Covid-19, the potential risk to a doctors’ own health as well the risk of inadvertently spreading the virus to vulnerable patients weighs very strongly in favour of doctors being vaccinated. Reducing the number of staff members who are sick or in self-isolation also has a positive impact on workforce capacity to respond to patient need and wider health service demands. 

‘Being a good doctor means more than simply being a good clinician. Doctors can provide leadership to their colleagues and vision for the organisations in which they work and for the profession as a whole. 

‘Whether or not vaccination is required as a condition of deployment, it continues to be one of the most effective ways to protect patients, staff and the health service itself. Over 95% of doctors have already received at least two vaccinations, with the majority of these having also been boosted. We strongly encourage those who haven’t yet taken up the full course of vaccination to do so.

The GMC has also published an FAQ published on its website, which said that ‘in our view, the potential risk to a doctors’ own health as well as the risk of inadvertently spreading Covid-19 to vulnerable patients weighs in favour of doctors being vaccinated’.

But the FAQ added: ‘However we recognise that vaccination is not possible in all cases. If you are not vaccinated, you need to be confident that there are measures in place where you work to manage any risk to patients and colleagues. You will need to take appropriate steps to reduce risks and prioritise patient safety.’

The promised consultation on revoking the mandatory vaccine requirement was launched yesterday by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

It said that although the Government’s ‘intention is to revoke’ the vaccine mandate, ‘the importance of vaccination remains clear’ as they save lives, and it is the ‘professional duty’ of health care workers to be fully jabbed against Covid.

And it announced that a separate consultation by the DHSC will gather opinions on reviewing the code of practice, ‘with a view to strengthening the obligations providers must satisfy’.

The Government is also engaging with NHS England to reassess its policies on hiring new unvaccinated staff and how current staff who are unvaccinated are deployed.

GP practices should get in touch with staff who quit over the Covid vaccine mandate to discuss reinstating them in their role, NHS England said this week.

It comes as the CQC had been due to inspect whether patient-facing GP staff had had the Covid vaccination.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Patrufini Duffy 11 February, 2022 5:28 pm

Not sure if this is comedy or even worth the ink.

Marie Williams 17 February, 2022 10:17 am

Are these people picking splinters out of their backsides from straddling the fence on this and so many other important issues?