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GMC extends contract for Doctor Support Service

Press Release

04 May 2017

The contract for a free service offering confidential emotional support for doctors involved in fitness to practise cases has been extended for another 12 months by the General Medical Council (GMC).

We know an investigation can be stressful, for everyone involved, and we are doing what we can to lessen the stress both on doctors and complainants. The support service plays a very important role.

GMC Chief Executive Charlie Massey

The GMC first commissioned the BMA to run the Doctor Support Service following a successful pilot in 2012. Since then it has provided assistance to hundreds of doctors, and the contract has now been extended until at least April 2018.

The service is run by the BMA Doctors for Doctors Unit – doctors trained and experienced in providing peer support – on behalf of the GMC.

The service is totally separate from the regulator, which does not get informed if a doctor uses the service, and users don’t have to be BMA members to access it. As well as fitness to practise, it can also support doctors going through a GMC licence to practise withdrawal process.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: ‘Many doctors will be the subject of a complaint at some point in their career, and the GMC has a legal obligation to investigate any allegations which suggest patients could be at risk as a result of a doctor breaching our standards.

‘We know an investigation can be stressful, for everyone involved, and we are doing what we can to lessen the stress both on doctors and complainants.

‘The support service plays a very important role. More than 500 doctors have used it since it launched, and we’ve had anonymised feedback, via the BMA, that doctors find it very helpful and reassuring to be able to talk, in confidence, to other doctors.

‘Fellow doctors are uniquely placed to understand the type of pressure users of the service are under, which is what makes the service so important.’

The head of the BMA Doctors for Doctors Unit, Dr Michael Peters, said: ‘The Doctor Support Service has emotionally supported many doctors during their fitness to practise cases – what could be described as one of the most difficult points in their careers.

‘What makes this service unique is the confidential peer-to-peer advice we offer from someone who can truly understand what callers are going through, allowing us to best look after doctors so they can best look after patients.

‘Investigations into a doctor’s practice can be extremely stressful regardless of the outcome, and so it’s important to help doctors to cope with this process.’

Doctors can call the Doctor Support Service on 020 7383 6707 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, or email them at doctorsupportservice@bma.org.uk

As well as the telephone service for doctors, the GMC also commissions a free, confidential emotional support service for patients and members of the public involved in the investigation process. It is run by the charity Victim Support and can be accessed by calling 0161 200 1956.

Notes to editors

The General Medical Council (GMC) is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.

  • We decide which doctors are qualified to work here and we oversee UK medical education and training.
  • We set the standards that doctors need to follow, and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
  • We take action when we believe a doctor may be putting the safety of patients, or the public's confidence in doctors, at risk.

We are not here to protect doctors - their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.

We are independent of government and the medical profession and accountable to Parliament. Our powers are given to us by Parliament through the Medical Act 1983.

We are a registered charity (number 1089278 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and number SC037750 with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), we have to show that our aims are for public benefit.

The GMC Media Relations Office can be contacted on 020 7189 5454, email press@gmc-uk.org.

To find out more please visit our website www.gmc-uk.org.

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