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Your spotlight on local services

New GMC Consultation on Sanctions Guidance and the Role of Apologies and Warnings


On Friday 22 August, the General Medical Council (GMC) are launching a major review of the guidance used to decide what action should be taken against doctors who do not meet professional standards. 

We encourage you to respond or get involved in this important work.

This is the guidance used by Fitness to Practise (FTP) panels run by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS). At the end of a hearing about a doctor’s fitness to practise medicine, panels decide what action should be taken to protect the public and uphold confidence in the medical profession. The guidance is also available to their own decision makers (Case Examiners) who decide whether a case does require to go for a panel hearing.

The GMC are consulting on a wide range of proposals to update this guidance to ensure that the decisions made are fair and consistent. They are also reviewing the role of apologies and warnings in our fitness to practise process.

Why are the GMC consulting?

This guidance has a similar purpose to the sentencing guidelines used by courts.

  • The sanctions that are imposed on doctors range in seriousness – from warnings and restrictions on their practice, through to temporary suspension and erasure from the medical register. They are one of the ways the GMC exercise their duty to protect the public from harm, maintain confidence in doctors and ensure high standards in the practice of medicine.
  • MPTS FTP panels have many factors to take into account when making decisions on cases. They want to make sure those decisions are proportionate and strike the right balance between protecting patients and being fair to doctors.
  • They also want to ensure their guidance for panellists reflects their current professional standards for doctors. (They updated Good medical practice, their core guidance for the profession, in April 2013.)

 What they are consulting on...

They are seeking your views on more than 20 questions. The key ones are:

  • Should panels require doctors to apologise when a patient has been harmed?
  • Should more serious action be taken where doctors fail to raise concerns when they see poor care being received by patients or when they have a serious concern about a colleague’s fitness to practise? The GMC believe this could increase the protection of patients while also drive a more open and honest culture in the places where doctors work.
  • What action should the GMC take against a doctor who fails to work in a professional way with others? In extreme cases, this unprofessional behaviour can impact on patient safety and may include bullying, harassing and discriminating against colleagues or patients.
  • In serious cases where harm has been caused to patients, should the doctor be accountable and face a sanction even if they have remediated?
  • Are the warnings the GMC give doctors an effective way of dealing with less serious concerns?

How you can take part?

 The consultation will be open for three months, closing on Friday 14 November 2014

The GMC are inviting all those with an interest in their work to respond – it will help to shape the action they take to deal with serious concerns about doctors for many years to come.

To take part in the consultation, please visit this site – it also provides more information about a microsite that has been developed which brings the role of the sanctions guidance to life and provide the GMC with additional feedback to support the main consultation results.  

 If you have any queries or would like more information, please email the team responsible directly on ftpconsultation@gmc-uk.org.


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