Doctors reflections should be protected

The GMC has told the Williams Review into Gross Negligence Manslaughter that doctors' reflections are 'so fundamental to their professionalism' that UK and devolved governments should consider providing legal protection.

Giving evidence to the Review, GMC Chair Prof Sir Terence Stephenson said that Parliament and devolved governments should bring forward legislation to protect reflective practice if they saw fit to do so.

Prof Sir Terence Stephenson said: 'We have made it clear that the GMC will not ask for doctors’ reflective records as part of the fitness to practise processes. But we do not control the actions of the courts and recorded reflections, such as in ePortfolios or for CPD purposes, are not subject to legal protection. Therefore disclosure of these documents might be requested by a court if it is considered that they are relevant to the matters to be determined in the case. The likelihood of records needing to be produced in court may be reduced if reflective records focus on reactions to, and learning from, an incident.

'For our part, we have concluded that because doctors’ reflections are so fundamental to their professionalism, UK and devolved governments should consider how to protect them in law, if they see fit to do so.'

The Review was told that further work will be needed on how this might be put into practice. The Review also heard that the GMC has undertaken to consider how human factors training can be incorporated into its processes.

The GMC has commissioned a fundamental review of the application of the law concerning gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide to doctors which will be led by Leslie Hamilton.

The learning from the review will support just decision making and the application of the law, procedures and processes where allegations of gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide have arisen so that accountability is appropriately apportioned between healthcare systems and individual doctors. The outputs of the Williams Review will help to inform Leslie's when he reports his conclusions at the start of 2019.