Options when not working
The broad areas of concern for a doctor who has been suspended or is unable to work are:
- What happens now?
- Health – Physical / Emotional / Psychological
Usually if the doctor is under investigation by the GMC, there will be a tribunal by the MPTS (Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service) who are closely affiliated to the GMC and based in Manchester. It is this panel who makes a recommendation as to whether or not a doctor can be erased, suspended pending further investigation, allowed to work with conditions, or allowed to work with no further action.
Any outcome except the latter can have profound consequences on the doctor in question. First there is often immediate shock, anger, guilt and resentment, but this often gives way to a complete sense of feeling immobile or frozen as the gravity of what has just happened sets in.
A. What happens now?
Here is what you need to do NOW:
- Call your employer immediately – you are not going to be returning to work tomorrow, and they need to know as soon as possible.
- Call your partner / family – they need to know so that they can be there for you when you get home.
- Call your indemnity provider – they are usually unaware of the outcome until a few days later, and the sooner you make contact, the sooner you can plan forwards eg for appeal etc.
- Take some time out to yourself – once you have done the first three things, there is really precious little you can do by sitting at home – go and visit close friends with whom you can take your mind off things.
- Start planning – you have to have a clear plan moving forwards about what you are going to do with your time, and how to organise your finances and other affairs.
B. Professional implications
- Call back the indemnity provider frequently during the next few days – there may have been progress or feedback from the hearing that will help your understanding of why what happened did – it is ok to feel like you are pestering them – that is what you pay your indemnity for after all.
- Contact the LMC (Local Medical Committee) – they are an excellent resource and will help you with the legalities and support networks of being suspended.
- Speak to your Employer / Partners / Medical Director – keep them in the loop – it can only work in your favour to keep them updated and also tap into their support structures too.
- Call & register with NHS Practitioner Health (NHS PH) – www.practitionerhealth.nhs.uk - who offer confidential NHS treatment for those doctors unable to access confidential care through mainstream routes.
- Register with Medic Footprints – www.medicfootprints.org – they are an excellent resource whose mission statement is “raising the visibility of the wealth of careers available to doctors, beyond traditional medicine”. Just because you cannot currently work as a doctor, does not mean that you cannot work – remember – you are a highly trained professional with a skill set that most would envy and so there are a lot of employers looking for someone just like you.
- Contact an Employment Lawyer – with the current financial climate in healthcare, there are a lot of Practices that cannot afford to keep you on their books and so it is worthwhile taking your contract of employment to an Employment Lawyer for their opinion on possible outcomes.
- Call BMA – your BMA membership is very important for this reason – they can assist with contractual disputes and also run a BMA Doctor Support Service that can be of use to you.
- Contact GMC – they may not be able to offer you much more information but it does not hurt to find out more from them if you can.
- Keep a diary of events – very important for appeals and any employment issues that arise.
- Use social media – there are a number of different Facebook support and information groups out there – including “Alternative Careers for Doctors” group and the Medics Footprints group as well.
C. Financial implications
- Call your bank / building society – they are often very helpful and will allow you a couple of months’ payment holiday from your mortgage if you have a good history with them, but it also means that if some payments cannot be made, they have a heads up as to why.
- Contact Royal Medical Benevolent Fund – www.rmbf.org – they are a helpful charity for doctors, medical students and their families, who provide financial support and advice.
- Contact Royal Medical Foundation – www.royalmedicalfoundation.org – they can help with financial assistance for registered doctors and their families too.
- Contact The Cameron Fund – www.cameronfund.org.uk – who are a GPs’ own charity and the only medical benevolent charity which solely supports GPs and their dependents.
D. Physical / Emotional / Psychological health implications
- Use your GP – arrange an urgent appointment with them to explain what has happened – you can go into as little detail as you wish to about your case, but access local services, whether that be counselling or your GP themselves.
- Go through your Employer if appropriate – the NHS is a huge employer and so has good Occupational Health structure which you should try to utilise.
- Arrange a referral to Psychologist / Mental Health Team as necessary – do not feel ashamed of your situation – many people have been through similar and you will find that most healthcare professionals will be helpful, even if they have not been through it personally.
- Contact the Sick Doctors’ Trust – who are a Trust that was set up by people with addictions and were concerned at the lack of effective arrangements for helping others in similar situations.
- Contact the Medical Council on Alcohol – www.m-c-a.org.uk/Home/home - who are an independent charity dedicated to improving the understanding and management of alcohol-related health harm.
- Contact Support 4 Doctors – www.support4doctors.org – they provide access to a wide range of specialist advice and support for doctors and their families, covering all areas, but also linking them to the right organisations.
- You are not the only one – the tendency for most healthcare professionals who find themselves unable to work is to go off-radar and think this is only happening to them – it’s not. Thousands of doctors find themselves in this situation and just knowing someone out there is going through similar, can be a reassuring thought.
- There is not right or wrong way to deal with this – whichever way you choose to deal with it is the right way for you, but just knowing what resources are out there available to you can be a huge comfort – make use of what you feel comfortable with.
I need to work further on the Introduction section of the page. Also, would it be possible to add the following documents as Additional Resources - on the side of Stage 6 webpage:
1) Transferrable Skills
2) Resources for doctors who are considering leaving medicine
3) Alternative career options for Medics