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GMC to review effect of poor mental health in ‘wider doctor population’

Exclusive The GMC is set to launch a review into the ‘wider question of mental health and wellbeing’ of all doctors, regardless of whether they are under investigation by the regulator.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey, told Pulse that he is ‘very concerned’ over the mental health of ‘the wider doctor population’ as discussions over doctor resilience ‘tend to personalise the problems for the doctor rather than the context in which they are working’.

He said that following a review into the impact of GMC investigations on doctors in 2016, the GMC made changes to its fitness to practice processes, opting to spare doctors with mental health problems from a full investigation.

But speaking at Pulse Live in London yesterday, Mr Massey said the GMC’s responsibility to doctors’ mental wellbeing is ‘actually deeper than that’.

He said: ‘I believe that the GMC has a locus to think about and care about the mental health and wellbeing of the wider doctor population. It’s not just about doctors going through our processes.’

Mr Massey said that he has asked Dame Denise Coia, chair of Health Improvement Scotland, and senior King’s Fund fellow Professor Michael West to lead on the review which would look that the ‘wider question of mental health and wellbeing’ in the medical profession.

He said that doctors who have a mental illness ‘are more likely to make mistakes, they’re more likely to leave the profession and I don’t believe that anybody other than the GMC will be sufficiently well placed’ to take on the review.

This comes after a study in the BMJ found that nearly four in five doctors with complaints lodged against them feel the investigation process was ‘needlessly’ long and meant they were more likely to experience depression and anxiety.

Is Fitness to Practice fit for purpose?

The GMC has previously pledged to introduce ‘resilience training’ similar to that offered to soldiers in Afghanistan in order to be prepared for the ‘occupational hazard’ of a GMC investigation.

A review launched by the GMC proposed doctors with mental health or addiction issues should be spared full investigation and ensuring all doctors have access to mental health support – like the BMA’s Doctors-for-Doctors which is backed by the GMC.

And this came after Pulse has published a series of articles about the pressure that GMC procedures put on vulnerable doctors, including a report that found that 28 doctors had died by suicide while under investigation and that 13 additional doctors died while the regulator contemplated action.

Another study has shown that complaints against doctors ‘may do more overall harm than good’.