Doctors who fail to apologise to patients could be struck off

Topics covered: Ridouts professional advice

The GMC has launched a consultation covering the improvement of patient protection and public confidence in doctors.  They are carrying out a major review of the guidance provided to fitness to practice hearing panels which are responsible for deciding what action should be taken to address doctors who do not meet the GMC professional standards.  The new guidance is intended to ensure that the fitness to practice panels from the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service continue to make decisions that are independent, fair and consistent.

Under the proposals doctors could face restrictions on their practice, suspension or have their registration removed in certain circumstances.  It is suggested that the sanctions should be imposed even if a doctor can demonstrate that they have subsequently improved their practice.

Chief Executive of the GMC, Niall Dickson, said “Doctors are among the most trusted professionals, and rightly so, and they deserve to be treated fairly.  In the vast majority of cases one-off clinical errors do not merit any action by the GMC.  But if we are to maintain that trust, in the small number of serious cases where doctors fail to listen to concerns and take action sooner to protect patients, they should be held to account for their actions.” 

“There have been occasions when we have been prevented from taking action in serious cases because the doctor has been able to show that they have subsequently improved their practice.  We believe that doctors and patients want stronger action in these serious cases.  It is also right that patients or their families are told what went wrong and if appropriate they should be given a full apology.  We believe this should be taken into account when deciding what if any sanction needs to be imposed to protect future patients and uphold the reputation of the profession.”

The Chief Executive added “The guidance on which we are consulting today is vital for Case Examiners and the independent panels who decide on the sanctions doctors should face, both to protect patients and uphold the reputation of the profession.  We want patients, doctors and other professionals to give us their views – this consultation is a chance to make sure the action we take is fair to doctors while never losing our focus on protecting the public.”

The consultation will run until Friday 14 November 2014.

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