Tougher Sanctions For Doctors Who Make Mistakes; Can Be Struck Off For Harming Patients

By Sonali Kamboj


Doctors who makes mistakes or refuse to apologise to the family of the patient for their mistakes can be struck off, the General Medical Council has announced.

The General Medical Council (GMC), a body that regulates all doctors in the UK, has put forth a proposal where doctors who harm their patients could face tougher sanctions.

Under new proposed rules, doctors could also face severe action if they fail to report their colleague’s incompetence in providing the best possible care to the patients.

The proposal also takes into account bullying doctors and lists the possibility of severe action against them.

In a press release, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said, “Doctors are among the most trusted professionals, and rightly so, and they deserve to be treated fairly. In the vast majority of cases one-off clinical errors do not merit any action by the GMC.”

“But if we are to maintain that trust, in the small number of serious cases where doctors fail to listen to concerns and take action sooner to protect patients, they should be held to account for their actions. There have been occasions when we have been prevented from taking action in serious cases because the doctor has been able to show that they have subsequently improved their practice. We believe that doctors and patients want stronger action in these serious cases.”

“It is also right that patients or their families are told what went wrong and if appropriate they should be given a full apology. We believe this should be taken into account when deciding what if any sanction needs to be imposed to protect future patients and uphold the reputation of the profession.”

However, Clare Gerada, medical director of the NHS practitioner health programme, is concerned about new sanctions.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today’s Programme, Dr. Gerada, said that, “Of course it’s important that we take into account the patient and we look at the damage that’s been done to the patient, but it’s also important that whatever sanction is a proportionate sanction, is a fair sanction. Thousands of doctors are being referred to the GMC. They sometimes lose their livelihood. In some cases, they take their life.”

Not everyone shares the same sentiment.

Talking to the Telegraph, Peter Walsh from the patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) said, “We welcome the proposal to enable the GMC to take regulatory action against doctors who have shown no insight following serious complaints that have been upheld about them.”

“It is not acceptable that they have not been able to even when they have wanted to in cases like those involving doctors involved in the Mid Staffordshire and Gosport War Memorial hospitals scandals. However, we are frustrated that changes are being made in a piecemeal fashion, when wholesale changes are required to the GMC’s and other regulators procedures.”

“There needs to be more transparency and patients need to be given the right to an independent review of decisions not to investigate concerns about health professionals, and access to specialist independent advice. It is disappointing that the Government is not taking forward the long awaited Bill on health professional regulation in this parliament.”

The consultation is open till 14th November and the opinions of general public and specialist groups are being sought.

The outcome will be published next year.

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