The GMC is proposing that sanctions against a GP will be no longer be public 20 years after being imposed, after determining that the current system of keeping records of sanctionsindefinitely could be ‘disproportionate’.
The change would apply to records published online and patient requests for information about a doctor, and it would vary based on the severity of the sanction.
This, the GMC states, would strike a balance between the need for transparency to maintain trust in the medical profession and doctors’ right to privacy.
Information will continue to be provided to current employers and overseas regulators, even where a time limit has expired, but the GMC is consulting on whether expired information should be made routinely available to prospective employers.
The consultation proposes that doctors who had been removed by a fitness-to-practise panel to later be reinstated would have the sanction remain on their record for as long as they are registered with the GMC, and for five years after.
For sanctions other than removal from the register – such as suspension, conditions, undertakings – the time limit would be ‘20 years from the date the sanction expires or the undertakings are revoked’.
It is also consulting on whether historical records of sanctions from 1994 to 2005 – which aren’t currently available online – should be digitised and uploaded.
The consultation states: ‘[Currently] all sanctions on a doctor’s registration, imposed by either a fitness-to-practise panel or an interim orders panel, remain on their record on the medical register indefinitely.
‘We propose to introduce a range of limits for the length of time that sanctions will be published on a doctor’s record on the online medical register or disclosed to general enquirers.’
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘We have concluded that publishing sanctions indefinitely in some situations could be disproportionate, if it happened a long time ago or if the doctor is no longer practising.
‘We want to strike the correct balance between the rights of patients to know and a doctor’s right to privacy. We are keen to hear from patients, doctors and others with an interest in our work so that we can get this important balance right.’
The consultation will run until 23 September and responses can be sent through view the GMC’s website. The results of the consultation will be published in February 2016 and new policies introduced in August 2016