We've told the Williams Review that Doctors’ reflections should be legally protected

We’ve told the Williams Review into Gross Negligence Manslaughter that doctors’ reflections are so fundamental to their professionalism that the UK and devolved governments should consider providing legal protection.

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

"We have made it clear 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."

Professor Sir Terence Stephenson

Council Chair

Prof Sir Terence Stephenson continued: '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.

Reflections key to doctors’ professionalism

'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 we will consider how human factors training can be incorporated into our processes.

Review commissioned

We have commissioned a fundamental review of the application of the law concerning gross negligence manslaughter and culpable homicide to doctors. Our review is led by Dame Clare Marx.

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. This will help make sure accountability is appropriately apportioned between healthcare systems and individual doctors.

The outputs of the Williams Review will help to inform Dame Clare's work when she reports her conclusions at the start of 2019.