Raising a concern about a colleague’s possible drug addiction 


Dr Hussain is a GP trainee working in a busy inner city GP training practice. It has an excellent reputation within the local community. She has noticed that one of the GP partners, Dr Bell, is acting out of character and he is short tempered and impatient.


During a break in an afternoon surgery, Dr Hussain goes to ask Dr Bell for advice about a patient with diabetes. When she goes into Dr Bell's consulting room, she sees him taking medication out of the drug cupboard and putting it into his pocket.

When she asks him what is happening, Dr Bell tells her he is self-treating for a painful back. He says this is time saving for him and the practice and is nothing unusual. He explains that he has some personal issues which are affecting his sleep. 

Dr Hussain knows that doctors should not self-prescribe, unless in exceptional circumstances, but doesn't want to harm her relationship with Dr Bell by questioning his actions. She agrees not to mention it to the other GPs.

Over the next few weeks, Dr Bell's behaviour continues to be erratic. Dr is convinced that Dr Bell might have a drug problem. She bases this on the knowledge she has about addictive behaviour from her experience on a rotation in an emergency ward. 

What the doctor did

Dr Hussain approaches Dr Bell and tentatively suggests that he might have a problem and needs help. Dr Bell rejects the suggestion and angrily tells her to mind her own business. He says she should pay more attention to progressing her career by ensuring she can complete her placement. 

Dr Hussain feels she is on the right track, and worries the emergency drug bag may be missing supplies as a result of Dr Bell's drug use. She worries about his welfare and that his judgement towards patients may be affected. She is anxious about telling anyone at the surgery, given the possible reaction from Dr Bell. She doesn't think it's appropriate to raise her concerns with her GP educational supervisor or her Deanery, as it's not specifically related to her training. She has heard of the GMC Confidential Helpline and decides to contact them for advice.

The helpline adviser reassures her that she was right to get in touch. The GMC has procedures to look into concerns about the health of a doctor, as well as patient safety concerns. Cases are handled sensitively, and doctors with health issues are encouraged to recognise they have health problems and offered support. Dr Hussain is assured that the GMC can take action without disclosing the role she played in raising the concern.