Wessex LMC has given a ‘gentle reminder’ to GPs not to investigate themselves or a family member not registered at their practice, after a local hospital found doctors had sent in blood samples for testing under false names.
The warning to practices, which featured in Wessex LMC’s December newsletter, comes after a local hospital was left scratching its head when names accompanying blood samples sent in for testing did not match those for any patients on GP practice lists.
On further investigation, the hospital found that one GP and one hospital doctor had requested tests to be carried out on their own bloods, supplying a false name. It also found that on other occasions GPs had requested blood testing on behalf of family members who were not on their practice lists.
Wessex LMC chair Dr Nigel Watson warned doctors that under GMC regulations they should not be investigating themselves, and warned that using a false name was a ‘serious issue of probity’.
He wrote to GPs: ‘One of our local hospitals has received a small number of requests for blood tests, which could not be matched with a practice’s registered population.
‘On further investigation several tests turned out to be doctors requesting blood tests on themselves and using false names and on other occasions, doctors requesting blood tests on a family member who were not registered with that practice.’
‘I am sure that I do not need to remind you of your obligations as detailed by the GMC. You should not be investigating yourself and using a false name is a serious issue of probity. In terms of your family you should follow the GMC guidelines which would suggest that a GP should not be investigating or treating their own family members, unless there are exceptional circumstances.’
Commenting on the issue to Pulse, he said: ‘It was identified in one hospital so it was fairly isolated, but it was just a reminder to GPs, and actually hospital doctors as well, because the examples they saw were actually identified as a hospital doctor and a GP.’
He said different GPs had submitted the blood for family members, adding: ‘They think they have very good reasons, which blur the boundary between family and work.’
‘They think it is easier if I sort this instead of going to the GP, but the GMC’s guidance is actually very clear on this, and this was just a gentle reminder that they keep those boundaries in place.
‘You occasionally get stories with the GMC where doctors have treated a family member and this person is much more seriously ill than you think, and some adverse thing happens. That is why they say you should not treat family members, unless it is an emergency situation.’
The doctors implicated have not been named by the hospital and are not facing any regulatory warnings or procedures.
The GMC said it expects all doctors to adhere to regulations as outlined in Good Medical Practice.
The GMC’s Good Medical Practice guide states that:
- You must do your best to make sure that any documents you write or sign are not false or misleading.
- Probity means being honest and trustworthy, and acting with integrity: this is at the heart of medical professionalism. You must make sure that your conduct at all times justifies your patients’ trust in you and the public’s trust in the profession.
- Wherever possible, you should avoid providing medical care to anyone with whom you have a close personal relationship.
- You should be registered with a general practitioner outside your family to ensure that you have access to independent and objective medical care. You should not treat yourself.