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Doctors who harm patients to face tougher sanctions, GMC proposes

MPS is preparing a detailed response on behalf of doctors in reply to the GMC’s latest proposals for doctors who cause harm to patients, through professional misconduct or clinical error, to face sanctions even if they can demonstrate that their practice has improved.

This consultation is part of the GMC‘s proposed changes to the indicative sanctions guidance it provides to fitness to practise hearing panels run by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

GMC chairman Niall Dickson said: “Doctors are among the most trusted professionals, and rightly so, and they deserve to be treated fairly. In the vast majority of cases one-off clinical errors do not merit any action by the GMC. But if we are to maintain that trust, in the small number of serious cases where doctors fail to listen to concerns and take action sooner to protect patients, they should be held to account for their actions.”

The GMC is consulting on:

  • Imposing sanctions where doctors make serious clinical errors, even where they have successfully retrained and improved their practice, if they failed to heed concerns and take steps to protect patients sooner.
  • Whether panels should require a doctor to apologise where he or she has previously failed to do so.
  • Imposing more serious action in cases where doctors fail to raise concerns about a colleague’s fitness to practise or take prompt action where a patient’s basic care needs are not being met.
  • Improved public protection in cases where a doctor has bullied colleagues and put patients at risk or discriminated against others in their professional or personal life.

MPS is currently examining the proposals in detail and will be formulating a response on behalf of doctors, which is due for publication later this year.

Source: Pulse, GMC

Recording female genital mutilation in records

All clinical staff must record that a patient has undergone female genital mutilation in their records, according to the Department of Health. A full list of requirements can be found in the DH’s Recording FGM. How the New Rules Affect General Practitioners.

MPS has produced a factsheet to support practitioners in this area.

Online access could cut appointments

Giving patients online record access could cut pressure on appointments, according to research published in the London Journal of Primary Care. The research suggested that if 30% of patients accessed their electronic general practice record online at least twice a year, a 10,000-patient practice is likely to save 4,747 appointments and 8,020 telephone calls each year – about 11% of appointments.

Source: London Journal of Primary Care

A new criminal offence for doctors

Brought to you by the MPS Policy team

Despite MPS lobbying, the government has pushed ahead with its proposals to introduce a new criminal sanction of ill-treatment or wilful neglect and the measures are now in a Bill before parliament.

Criminal investigations looking into matters of clinical practice, or the use of resources, would be inappropriate and highly disruptive as well as stressful for staff. We know that criminal investigations, no matter if they end up with a case being brought or not, create an atmosphere of fear that has repercussions on a culture of openness.

MPS is concerned that in recent years there has been a growing trend towards introducing new laws and regulations to infl uence the behaviour of healthcare professionals. Placing ever more regulatory burdens on doctors is not, in MPS’s opinion, the best way of driving an open learning culture in healthcare or improving patient safety. Mentoring and leadership from the top, alongside education and training, are the most effective ways of ensuring high quality patient care and a profession that feels able to report mistakes.

We have worked closely with a group of healthcare organisations to call on Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, to introduce safeguards to be added to the Bill, which aim to ensure that doctors are not subjected to unwarranted investigations that waste time and money. Whatever the response, we will continue to lobby on the Bill to minimise the negative impact for members.

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