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Letter: ‘GMC changes are making GPs more vulnerable to disciplinary action’

GMC appeal tribunal

The GMC has opened a consultation on their proposed changes to Good Medical Practice (GMP), which comes two years into a pandemic that has tragically taken the lives of many doctors and dimmed the vigour of many more. These proposed changes also arrive under the approaching cloud of government-driven privatisation of the NHS, a media campaign of vilification (particularly of GPs), and working conditions that have driven many to either emigrate or leave the profession entirely.

The GMP guidelines are used as a benchmark in practically all GMC fitness-to-practise decisions and are also used as a blueprint for appraisals and revalidation, whereby practitioners must demonstrate their adherence to the standards. We must start from the material reality that doctors marginalised by sex, gender and race are disproportionately referred to the GMC, and we therefore consider the proposed changes through the lens of those most likely to find themselves under scrutiny.

The treatment of Dr Bawa-Garba and, more recently, Dr Manjula Arora leave us without confidence in the GMC’s claim that a sensible approach would, of course, be taken by investigations. Facing criticism, the GMC reversed Dr Arora’s suspension and in an earlier statement on the matter, the GMC said this case has ‘prompted discussion about our work to eliminate disproportionate referrals’. However, this has apparently been a ‘target’ for at least a year and has been the subject of discussion since 2019.

These updated guidelines are an example of superficial, individualistic change which have the potential to be weaponised against marginalised doctors. This is a missed opportunity to truly improve both UK doctors’ professional lives and consequently the quality of patient care. It does little to address the distinction between doctors’ personal and professional lives, the democratisation of clinical knowledge, the interface between doctors and newly created associate roles, the challenges posed by rapid advances in technology, or advocating for our patients in increasingly challenging circumstances.

Instead, it foists plenty of additional responsibility onto their shoulders while simultaneously making them more vulnerable to disciplinary action should they displease their employers. It appears to ask doctors to be all things to all people at all times, and to demonstrate several new, vague, abstract professional standards in their appraisals.

The doctors who really need to consider their actions, their sexism, racism and oppressive conduct at work, will likely never think about Good Medical Practice nor find themselves referred to the GMC. These guidelines are helping to contribute to a work environment that will actively discriminate against marginalised doctors and prevent the profession from working together to struggle for better conditions. While the principles may be correct, the execution is thus far misguided.

The deadline for the consultation is today, and we implore all professionals who will be impacted by these proposed changes to respond if they haven’t already done so.

Leonard Grant is a medical education researcher and educator in London and Dr Sharon Holland is a psychiatrist in north east England


David jenkins 20 July, 2022 1:12 pm

i cannot see anywhere in this “consultation” that says it will be anonymous. you can be sure that if you are silly enough to take part, and opine something controversial, your card will be marked, and they will be watching you.

two words that should fall out of your mouth if the letters GMC are spoken in that order……….bawa garba

Patrufini Duffy 22 July, 2022 11:17 pm

Certainly David.
Pulse could get an FOI of how many doctors engage in such consultations. <5%
They'll single you out if you speak up, duty of candour and whistleblowing charard.
Look forward to a Panorama programme on this lot soon.