GMC launches confidential helpline for doctors to raise concerns about patient safety

Press Release

10 Dec 2012

For the first time doctors who are worried about patient safety will be able to contact the General Medical Council (GMC) through a new confidential helpline.

The eyes and ears of health professionals are often the most valuable means of protecting patients and ensuring high quality care.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council

Confidential Helpline number: 0161 923 6399

The helpline, launched today (10 December), will enable doctors to seek advice on any issues they may be dealing with and to raise serious concerns about patient safety when they feel unable to do this at local level.

Today the GMC has also launched a new online decision aid to help doctors report patient safety concerns.

The new services are part of the GMC’s on-going commitment to support doctors who raise concerns around patient safety and to foster a more open and transparent working culture in which all staff feel empowered to speak up.

The launch of both services follows the publication of new GMC guidance for doctors, Raising and Acting on Concerns about patient safety, which was sent to every doctor in the UK earlier this year.

The helpline will be staffed by specially trained advisors who will be able to take forward information about individual doctors or organisations that can be investigated by the GMC. Callers can also be directed to other appropriate organisations, such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The helpline will operate during normal business hours, but will include the facility to call doctors back at a time of their choice.

Although doctors will normally pursue any concerns locally, the GMC hopes that the helpline will provide support in navigating through the system.

The GMC guidance around raising concerns makes it clear that doctors have a duty to put patients’ interests first and act to protect them at all times – this overrides personal and professional loyalties.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, said:

‘Being a good doctor is more than simply being a good clinician. It requires a commitment to improve the quality of services and a willingness to speak up when things are not right – this is not always easy, but it is at the heart of medical professionalism.

‘In the past, many doctors have felt uneasy raising concerns about policies and procedures or about their colleagues. We hope this new service will be useful in helping them navigate their way through the system. We also hope it will give doctors the confidence to act when they have concerns.

‘The eyes and ears of health professionals are often the most valuable means of protecting patients and ensuring high quality care.’

Dean Royles, Director of the NHS Employers organisation, said:

‘No one wants staff to be in a situation where they feel they can't report concerns and we have a duty to make it clear that the sooner concerns or worries are raised, the better it is for patients. Patient safety is paramount and it is essential staff know and feel that any concerns they raise about poor standards are heard and acted upon

‘We believe it is important that employers, regulators and other professional bodies work together to constantly reinforce messages to reassure staff that they can speak openly, and we are delighted to be able to support this initiative from GMC.’