This information guide is
intended for a psychiatrist who needs advice on probity issues. The
information can be used as a guide only and is not a substitute for
professional advice. If you need further advice and support, please
contact the Psychiatrists’ Support Service or one of the
organisations listed at the end of this information guide.
Definition and implications
Probity means integrity,
trustworthiness, openness and honesty, and is expected in all areas
of professional medical practice, not solely in connection with
Transgressions of this type may be
- the law, for example fraudulent
benefit claim, theft
- trust policies and standards, for
example omission of making clear leave or sickness arrangements,
inaccurate applications, false expense claims, prescribing
illegitimately, not being available as agreed
- professional standards, for
example misleading patients, falsifying records to cover up errors,
making false claims.
These categories often overlap, but
they help indicate what may happen as a consequence, as more than
one type of sanction may be applicable.
A declaration of probity is
required with the formal consultant appraisal format, which will be
presented for revalidation to the General Medical Council (GMC).
This includes acceptance of professional obligations and a
declaration that there have been no criminal convictions or
proceedings pending, nor formal regulatory or disciplinary issues.
If the declaration cannot be made, then further explanatory details
You need to be aware of the full
details of all GMC guidance, but the section on probity especially
emphasises the following areas, indicating where problems have
arisen in the past.
1. Providing information about your
This information must be factual
and not make exaggerated claims. Prospective patients must not be
pressurised in any way.
2. Writing reports, giving evidence and signing
Reasonable steps must be taken to
verify any verbal or written formal statements, and these should
not be misleading because of omitted information (as with a job
reference, for instance).
Approval for research must be
obtained from an independent research ethics committee and you must
ensure that patients have given fully informed consent.
4. Financial and commercial dealings
- Patients should not be subject to
pressure to accept private treatment and should be fully informed
about any fees. Similarly, patients should not be pressed to donate
money or gifts, whether personal or to a project or
- Income, for instance for a
project, should be kept separate from personal income and be spent
how it was intended.
- Declarations of interest must
always be made, and conflicts of interest avoided.
Issues of probity may be referred
- The police and thence the Crown
- The employer, who may seek advice
from the National Clinical Advisory Service and/or use their own
disciplinary policy. They can also refer to the National Health
Service (NHS) Counter Fraud and Security Management Service
- The GMC
These organisations may discuss
with each other whose investigations are most appropriate in the
Frequently asked questions
How can allegations of
offences against probity be prevented?
- Be aware that law-breaking which
could give rise to mistrust, even if not apparently connected with
your profession, may be grounds for action by your employer or the
- Be familiar with the GMC’s
Good Medical Practice (2006), which is regularly
- Be familiar with Maintaining
High Professional Standards in the NHS and how it has been
applied by your employer.
- Ensure your job plan is agreed and
- Follow procedure on leave
applications and claiming expenses, keeping copies.
- Do not do other work when on sick
- Ensure communications are accurate
What should I do about
a potential probity allegation?
- While ‘slack’ practice is common,
‘they do it too’ is rarely an acceptable defence, although the
person against whom the complaint was made may feel this is
- Being professional is not about
not making mistakes but about how you handle those you do make – be
- honest, approach concerns on a
problem-solving, not adversarial, basis and show insight in dealing
with any genuine expressions of concern.
- If you become aware, for instance,
of an error you have made, in the first place ask a trusted
colleague for advice as to how you may put it right and/or avoid
such a circumstance in the future.
- Document this and start keeping a
diary of events related to the issue.
- Consider consulting your defence
or professional organisation.
What if I receive a
- Reflect as above.
- Ask your defence and professional
organisations for advice. They are likely to agree between them who
should lead on the issue.
- Document this and start keeping a
diary of events related to the issue.
- Gather all the information you can
about the nature of the allegation and the formal procedures which
are taking place. Your trust’s human resources department should be
able to help.
What should I avoid
- Do not respond impulsively or
aggressively, for instance blaming others.
- Do not attempt to supply, alter or
amplify a contemporaneous record. However, a correctly dated
addendum may be of use later.
What might happen
- This will vary according to the
process, but suspension from employment pending investigation is
quite a possibility (see the information guide on exclusion, in
- The GMC may view the allegation as
possible grounds for erasure for serious professional misconduct
and therefore may suspend registration under the Interim Orders
procedure, often for 18 months.
- Any formal procedure is likely to
be prolonged and stressful, so seek a variety of support and ensure
you look after your health. The College’s Psychiatrists’ Support
Service has a list of organisations offering support to doctors,
and can also offer contact with senior colleagues.
Sources of further help and support
BMA House, Tavistock Square
London WC1H 9JP
Tel: 020 7387 4499
St James’s Buildings, 79 Oxford Street
Manchester M1 6FQ
Tel: 0845 357 8001
Hospital Consultants and Specialists
1 Kingsclere Road,Overton, Basingstoke,
Hants RG25 3JA
Tel: 012 5677 1777
Medical and Dental Defence Union
Mackintosh House, 120 Blythswood Street
Glasgow G2 4EA
Tel: 0141 221 5858
Medical Defence Union
230 Blackfriars Road
London SE1 8PJ
Tel: 020 7202 1500
33 Cavendish Square
London W1G 0PS
Tel: 020 7637 0541
National Clinical Assessment
1st Floor, Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane
London SW8 5NQ
Tel: England and Northern Ireland 020 7062 1655,
Wales 029 2044 7540, Scotland 013 1220 8060; 24-hour emergency
contact 020 7062 1655
NHS Counter Fraud and Security
Weston House, 246 High Holborn,
London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 7895 4500
Royal College of Psychiatrists
17 Belgrave Square
London SW1X 8PG
Tel: 020 7245 0412
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If you require advice and support about a particular issue then please contact the
Psychiatrists' Support Service at the Royal College of Psychiatrists on 0207 245
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