A road traffic accident reveals a doctor’s alcohol dependency and results in a self-referral to the GMC. By Dr Lucy Hanington, Medicolegal Consultant at Medical Protection.
Dr E, Consultant Geriatrician, was involved in a road traffic accident. Dr E was breathalysed and found to be over the limit. The police charged Dr E with driving under the influence of alcohol. As Dr E had been charged it is necessary to inform the General Medical Council (GMC) in accordance with the professional obligations recorded in paragraph 75 of Good Medical Practice.
How Medical Protection assisted
The GMC subsequently wrote to Dr E as they had opened an investigation, and so Dr E contacted Medical Protection for advice.
The Medicolegal Consultant (MLC) arranged a meeting with Dr E to discuss the GMC process. Dr E disclosed experiencing low mood following difficulties at home and had been drinking more than usual as a result.
The MLC talked through the potential sources of support available to Dr E and advised that it was likely that the GMC would approach the case as a health concern in the absence of any other issues.
Dr E was invited to attend health assessments with two independent psychiatrists instructed by the GMC. The MLC discussed what these would involve and advised that it was likely that they may be required to provide a sample for alcohol testing (and possibly other substances). The MLC suggested that it would be helpful for Dr E to consider abstaining from alcohol during this process.
The MLC also encouraged Dr E to contact their own GP and occupational health, for support during their recovery journey, as well as in the understanding that constructive steps taken by the individual to address their health concerns so that they may take positive steps in response to the issue.
Following the health assessments, the GMC wrote to Dr E to propose several actions and undertakings were agreed.
Dr E was assigned a medical supervisor, and required to submit to regular hair testing, which is often a requirement of ongoing monitoring for doctors with addiction problems. Dr E was understandably concerned about the reputational and career impact but received reassurance that the health-related sections of the undertakings would not be published by the GMC.
While being supported through the GMC process by Medical Protection throughout, after a period of 18 months these undertakings were revoked.
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