A major consultation by the General Medical Council (GMC) has found strong support for proposals to deal with the small number of doctors who put patients at significant risk or cause them harm.
| The overwhelming response to the consultation, and the strong support for the proposals, will help us produce better guidance to protect patients and uphold public confidence in the good doctors who are providing effective, compassionate and safe care every day|
| Niall Dickson|
More than 2000 people responded to the consultation, including patients, doctors and professionals from across the health service.
The GMC had consulted on the guidance for fitness to practise panels of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) who decide what sanction doctors should face when they are a risk to patients or have put the reputation of the profession at risk.
The guidance is also used by GMC decision makers who decide whether or not to refer a doctor under investigation to an MPTS panel.
There was overwhelming support for striking doctors off the register following predatory behaviour.
The consultation also found that:
- 78% thought that panels should take more serious action in cases involving bullying, sexual harassment and physical violence towards colleagues and where patients had been put at risk
- 61% supported stronger action being taken where a doctor has discriminated against patients or other health professionals
- 79% agreed that the stage of a doctor’s career should be a mitigating factor when considering what action to take.
The GMC will publish new guidance for MPTS fitness to practise panels reflecting on the consultation in the summer.
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:
“The vast majority of doctors provide safe and compassionate care and continue to deserve the trust and respect that the public continues to have for the medical profession. There are more than a quarter of a million doctors in the UK and very few are ever subject to a sanction. This consultation is about how we deal with that small minority.
"The overwhelming response to the consultation, and the strong support for the proposals, will help us produce better guidance to protect patients and uphold public confidence in the good doctors who are providing effective, compassionate and safe care every day.”
His Honour David Pearl, Chair of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, added:
“MPTS panels are on the frontline when it comes to ensuring patient safety, as it is the decisions that they take that determine whether a doctor is fit to practise.
“The important powers that they have can restrict or remove a doctor’s registration if they find it is necessary in order to protect the public. The revised guidance will help ensure that in the most serious cases, appropriate sanctions are imposed that have the confidence of the public.”
Niall Dickson added:
“The consultation also demonstrated the importance of apologising to patients when things go wrong. In this consultation we asked whether failing to apologise should affect the sanction a doctor faces, and there was strong support for this to be included in new guidance. Until now this has not been highlighted as one of the factors which are likely to affect sanctions - that is now likely to change.
“However, the consultation did not back the idea that doctors should be required to apologise - we had recognised that forced apologies might not be regarded as genuine and this concern was reflected in the consultation responses.
“The end result though is likely to be guidance on sanctions that for the first time does recognise the importance of apology.”