GMC to adopt more compassionate approach

The General Medical Council (GMC) will make initial contact with a doctor by phone if they need to investigate a concern, the regulator has announced.

The change, which follows positive feedback from medical defence organisations, is part of a series of improvements by the GMC to take a more compassionate approach and reduce the impact of investigations.

The GMC’s pilot carried out in 2022 found doctors felt more supported when initial phone calls were made.

To reduce anxiety for doctors the person dealing with the investigation will first email the doctor to arrange a phone call then introduce themselves as the doctor’s contact, explain what the immediate next steps will be and signpost them to relevant support services.

This will be immediately followed up by written correspondence. A bespoke communication plan is created for the doctor during the call, factoring in their communication preferences and assessing whether they may be vulnerable.

In recent years the GMC has made a number of other changes to the way it conducts investigations and communicates with doctors, following valuable recommendations from psychiatrist Professor Louis Appleby, who it asked to review its processes.

This includes establishing a range of support services for doctors under investigation and for those referred to a tribunal, as well as a specialist team to manage communication with doctors under investigation who are unwell.

GMC data shows that of all the complaints they received between 2012 and 2021, only seven doctors have been removed from the medical register for purely clinical concerns. This is out of the approximate 370,000 who had a licence to practise during that period.

Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen, Chair of the GMC said:

“Reducing the impact of our investigations on doctors is of the utmost importance to us."

RCPsych President Dr Adrian James said:

“We welcome the GMC’s work to adopt a more compassionate approach during Fitness to Practise investigations, as often the situations are complex and very stressful for all concerned. Making an initial phone call to the doctor in question is a step in the right direction.”

Members who would like support in relation to a Fitness to Practise investigation or for any other reason can contact the Psychiatrists Support Service.

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