Memorandum of understanding: GMC & GDC
Self-declaration of a health issue
In some cases, we recommend that the patient self refers to the regulator and that it would be in their best interests to do so. In these situations, we help the patient draft the email or letter to the regulator and support the patient making the disclosures. In our experience, self-disclosure is always better than disclosure by a third party. Wherever possible we advise that the doctor seeks legal advice beforehand, either through their Medical Defence Organisation or a solicitor.
The GMC give advice around dealing with health issues and have funded the BMA to offer support for doctors facing Fitness to Practise Cases (a supporter will offer telephone advise and attend the hearing with you).
Examples where self-disclosure would be in the best interests of the doctor:
- After a drink drive offence, even if the police have already informed the regulator;
- After any caution or formal charge;
- Where the doctor has been seen taking illegal drugs;
- Where the doctor has had a serious complaint at work;
- Where the doctor has been involved in a probity issue which has raised concern at work (e.g. where it is alleged that the doctor has worked when on sick leave, amended patient records, or prescribed in another patient/person’s name).
In a very small minority of patients (around 12 over the last 10 years) where a doctor has refused to self-disclose, we have needed to contact the GMC and/or disclose to their employer because of patient safety concerns, ongoing illegal or harmful activity or where it was in the best interests of the health practitioner.
In many cases there may be no need for the regulator or organisation to be made aware of your health issues. The GMC state in their guidance
If, with the right support, you are able to manage a health problem so that the care that you give your patients is not affected, then your fitness to practise won’t be affected. So there will be no need for us to be involved or even to know about it.
Practitioner health has built good relationships with all of the major defence organisations and barristers who are able to offer free or low-cost advice. Undergoing disciplinary processes can be highly stressful and it can feel unpleasant to be out of control of the situation. When a patient is undergoing proceedings with a regulator, we tend to ask the GMC/GDC to copy us into correspondence which enables us to be involved in the communications.
If any of our patients are invited to attended a GMC hearing, we give advice to them and help them to try to arrange appropriate legal representation. Unfortunately, solicitor and barrister costs can be very expensive but the experience that lawyers have at organising and delivering the evidence of the case so this is recommended wherever possible.
To help doctors involved with the regulator, PHS has:
- Worked with the GMC to help improve the experience of doctors with mental health problems passing through their processes
- Helped GMC redraft their correspondence to doctors and to improve how the GMC communicate
- Have a low threshold for offering psychological and pharmacological treatments following a complaint
- Helped provide access to a solicitor who offers fixed price advice
- Helped doctors access pro-bono services
- Helped doctors obtain financial support from GP charity, the Cameron Fund and/or Royal Medical Benevolent Fund
- Help prepare doctors for hearings, including reports and attend the GMC if possible
- For doctors who have been suspended or erased we offer a place on our suspended doctors group which meets twice a month
- We offer support for at least one-year post erasure
- Helped erased doctors return to the medical register (including carrying out appraisals and advising on developing a personal development plan)
- Help doctors prepare for a review after a period of suspension
- Help doctors find supported employment after a period of suspension
- Helped doctors find employment if they cannot work in their capacity as a doctor