GMC to look at the wider issues around manslaughter

GMC Statement

30 Jan 2018

The General Medical Council’s Chair, Professor Sir Terence Stephenson, has announced a programme of work to look at the wider issues around medical manslaughter.

Terence Stephenson, Chair of the General Medical Council, said:

‘We recognise the strength of feeling expressed by many doctors, and we are listening to those concerns.

‘In recent months I have been engaged in workshops and constructive discussions with medical leaders on the issue of medical manslaughter. That is urgent work because, although in this case the court has ruled that the Medical Practitioners Tribunal had no powers to unpick the criminal court conviction, it is clear that there is a critical need to examine the wider issues around how gross negligence manslaughter cases are initiated and investigated, the expertise and consistency applied to those investigations, and the role of reflection in such matters.

‘As part of our commitment to learn and improve matters we will bring together health professional leaders, defence bodies, patient, legal and criminal justice experts from across the UK to explore how gross negligence manslaughter is applied to medical practice, in situations where the risk of death is a constant and in the context of systemic pressure. That work will include a renewed focus on reflection and provision of support for doctors in raising concerns.

‘We are not blind to the challenging conditions in which doctors have to work. We recognise that any doctor, no matter how experienced, can make a mistake, particularly when working under pressure. We know that we cannot immediately resolve all of the profession’s concerns, but we are determined to do everything possible to bring positive improvements out of this issue.’

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

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