COVID-19 specific guidance published for doctor complaints

The General Medical Council (GMC) has today, Monday 14 September, issued guidance for its staff detailing how to take the context created by COVID-19 into account when considering complaints about doctors.

The guidance takes account of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, including additional pressures on resources and ways of working outside of normal routines.

The advice is detailed in new COVID-19 specific guidance the GMC has issued to its staff who look into fitness to practise concerns raised about doctors.

It means that, in line with the GMC’s normal practice, concerns about doctors will be considered in the context of the pandemic and, in certain circumstances and where there are no risks to patients or to public confidence, some issues might not put into question a doctor’s fitness to practice.

Examples could include concerns about clinical treatment where guidelines were unclear, or a doctor working outside their usual area of practice with limited or no support or guidance to do so safely. There would also need to be no risk to future patients.

The guidance also advises GMC staff to reflect on specific issues arising due to the pandemic such as:

  • the disproportionate impact of disease and mortality rates on individuals from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.
  • access to and availability of adequate PPE.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:
‘The unpredictable circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced doctors of all levels to change their practice and work more flexibly.‘

Our new guidance considers the environment, created by the pandemic, in which doctors were working, along with any relevant information about resource, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.

‘During this challenging time, doctors of course still have a duty to provide the best and safest care they can in the circumstances. When we consider concerns raised about doctors, we always review the circumstances and context of the case to decide whether they pose a future risk to patients and whether their fitness to practise is impaired.’

 

"During this challenging time, doctors of course still have a duty to provide the best and safest care they can in the circumstances. When we consider concerns raised about doctors, we always review the circumstances and context of the case to decide whether they pose a future risk to patients and whether their fitness to practise is impaired."

Charlie Massey

GMC Chief Executive 

Each complaint will be assessed on a case-by-case basis as to whether the incident poses a risk to patients or to public confidence. The new guidance will be used by decision makers alongside updated guidance on provisional enquiries, the GMC’s Good medical practice, and other processes that form the bases for looking into fitness to practise concerns*.

The GMC consulted with doctors, medical defence organisations and patient groups prior to publishing the new guidance for decision makers.