Updates to our guidance for concerns involving low level violence and dishonesty

We’ve published updated guidance for our decision makers, including our case examiners, on how we consider concerns about doctors involving allegations of low level violence and dishonesty. 

Our updated guidance continues to put patient safety first, while ensuring our approach is proportionate and flexible for the future. 

We’ve also updated our thresholds guidance for responsible officers, medical directors and employers to reflect these changes and to make it clearer where we can and can’t take action. 

Key changes in guidance

Most concerns involving allegations of low level violence and dishonesty are investigated and referred to tribunal. But given the wide range of behaviour that can be defined as violent or dishonest, a number of cases are concluded at tribunal with no action or a warning as a doctor’s fitness to practise isn’t found to be impaired.

Our updated guidance supports our decision makers to carefully consider whether a doctor’s behaviour poses a risk to patients, public confidence in the medical profession or to proper professional standards and conduct. 

It sets out factors which are likely to lower risk, such as whether the allegation is an isolated incident, or whether it took place outside the context of a doctor’s professional practice. 

And it allows greater discretion on the action that can be taken to address these types of concerns, helping to reduce stress for both complainants and doctors by ensuring we only carry out full investigations or refer cases to tribunal where it’s necessary to do so.

The changes to the guidance reflect findings from our research into ‘Promoting and maintaining public confidence in the medical profession’. This research was commissioned in 2018 and involved over 2000 members of the public. The vast majority of respondents felt that we should take no action or give doctors a warning when asked to consider scenarios involving low level violence and dishonesty outside the workplace. 

We’ll continue to investigate and refer to tribunal cases where the doctor’s behaviour poses a risk to patients, public confidence in the medical profession or to proper professional standards and conduct.

If you have any questions about the changes, please speak to your employer liaison adviser.