Our role in protecting the public

We have a legal duty under the Medical Act 1983 to protect the public. The Act splits public protection into three distinct parts. It says that we must act in a way that:

  • protects, promotes and maintains the health, safety and wellbeing of the public
  • promotes and maintains public confidence in the profession
  • promotes and maintains proper professional standards and conduct for members of the profession.

When we receive a concern, we’re legally required to assess if the doctor may pose any current and ongoing risk to one or more of the three parts of public protection. We do this by considering the following, which is often referred to as an assessment of a doctor’s fitness to practise:

  • a doctor’s overall ability to perform their individual role
  • their professional and personal behaviour
  • the impact of any health condition on their ability to provide safe care.

If we need more information to make this assessment, we might carry out further investigations.

When assessing a doctor’s fitness to practise, we follow these guiding principles:

Being proportionate

In each case we will decide what action is required, taking no more measures than necessary, and in a timely way.

Being transparent

We're open about the process and the decisions we make. We explain our steps clearly and give reasons for our decisions so that everyone can understand them and hold us accountable.

Being fair

We gather relevant evidence to help us to reach a fair decision. We evaluate information, ask questions, challenge assumptions and are open to new evidence or changing circumstances. To get the best evidence we can for fair decision making, we support individuals with guidance on the fitness to practise process. And we explain to them what we expect from them to help them participate effectively.

Our information document Decision making principles in fitness to practise explains what each of these principles means in more detail.