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GMC to introduce ‘new tone’ in communications with GPs at risk of self harm

The GMC will adjust its communications with GPs involved in fitness-to-practise proceedings if they are deemed to be at high risk of self-harm, Pulse has learnt.

The regulator’s fitness to practise policy team says it is developing a protocol on how communications from the GMC should be more sensitively expressed if, during the course of a normal investigation, the GMC find out that a GP is at risk of self-harm.

This forms part of broader work to make fitness to practise proceedings less stressful, and follows a review of the tone of voice the GMC uses in its communications.

The ‘new tone’ has been implemented for all GPs, but if a GP is considered at high risk, the GMC said it will communicate with extra sensitivity.

A GMC spokesperson could not provide information on how they would identify a GP at high risk of self-harm and added that they did not have any figures for how many GPs are currently at risk of self-harming.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson, said: ‘Being part of a fitness to practise case is almost always a stressful experience, especially for the doctor involved. That is why we have an ambitious programme of reform to speed up the process and to do what we can to reduce the anxiety the process causes.

‘This has included establishing a separate adjudication service, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service – led by a judge, which is committed to fair and effective decision making. At the same time we are piloting meetings with doctors to hear their side of the story earlier and, where we can, agree how we can protect the public without a tribunal hearing. We are also reviewing the tone of all our letters to make them clearer and more sensitive.’

He added: ‘In addition we now have a support programme for witnesses appearing both for the GMC and for the doctor, 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. The service is available free to any doctor, whether or not they are a BMA member.

‘Our priority must always be to protect patients but when we take forward concerns about doctors we want do this as quickly, fairly and sensitively as we can.’