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Key principles for supporting vulnerable doctors agreed
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21st July 2015
AUK Staff
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 The case for better support for vulnerable doctors has been clearly demonstrated by the amazing work that is already underway.
 Niall Dickson
Healthcare experts and leaders from across the UK have highlighted a number of key principles for improving services for doctors with mental health and addiction problems at a roundtable discussion hosted by the General Medical Council (GMC).

The roundtable considered one of the recommendations outlined in the independent review of doctors who take their own lives while under investigation by the GMC which was published in December 2014.

The review recommended establishing a national or nationally co-ordinated support service for doctors with mental health or addiction problems. This recommendation was directed at a range of organisations, many of which were at the roundtable discussion.

Participants at the roundtable highlighted key principles for the development of services in this area:
  • All such services should be separate from the GMC and seen to be separate. 
  • There must be some liaison with the GMC where there is a risk to patient safety. 
  • There should be clear rules around information disclosure and the relationship with the GMC so that doctors are not discouraged from accessing help. 
  • There need to be systems in place within organisations to encourage early. awareness and early intervention, as well as making sure there are support services for doctors with complex issues. 
  • Services must be accessible and confidential. This is vital if doctors are to have the confidence to self-refer and disclose. 
  • There was recognition that there were particular stresses affecting doctors and barriers to them accessing local services, but also recognition that similar problems could face other healthcare professionals and managers. 
  • There was little enthusiasm for a UK wide service and acceptance that the models that were suitable for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, might be different – for example England might benefit from a regional ‘hub and spoke’ model that is networked together using experts to support different parts of the system. 
  • There was interest in shared standards for services across the UK and in sharing good practice. 
  • The business case for developing services needs to be made strongly to potential funders, using evidence from existing services.
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:

 We will certainly work with experts in this area to encourage the development of better support as well as seeking their help as we reform the way we deal with this group of doctors within our procedures
 Niall Dickson
“The case for better support for vulnerable doctors has been clearly demonstrated by the amazing work that is already underway. The challenge facing the system as a whole is that such services are not found everywhere. We will certainly work with experts in this area to encourage the development of better support as well as seeking their help as we reform the way we deal with this group of doctors within our procedures.

“We have found this discussion enormously helpful. We have heard a number of important messages from across the UK and we will publish a short report following this discussion. We are also keen to hold another similar event to consider how we are taking forward the other recommendations from the independent review.”


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