Raising concerns about your supervisor

A student working at a GP surgery rang the MDU to ask for advice after her GP trainer had turned up twice in a week looking dishevelled and smelling strongly of alcohol. She had also found him apparently asleep at his desk during morning surgery. The GP had a single-handed practice and the student did not know who she could disclose this to. She was also worried that if she raised concerns, she would not be signed off for the placement.

Students, like doctors, have an ethical duty to raise concerns when there is a potential patient safety issue. If the GP does have a problem with alcohol dependence, this could be impairing his decision making and pose a danger to his patients.

GMC student guidance, paragraph 31, says doctors and student should take steps to raise any concerns about a colleague's behaviour, performance or health with the appropriate person.

The MDU advised the student to speak to her educational supervisor at the medical school. She could also report her concerns to the local area team or health board who would be able to investigate this further.

MDU advice

  • Familiarise yourself with the GMC guidance Medical students: professional values and fitness to practise (2009).
  • Be aware that your conduct outside the medical school can also be subject to scrutiny.
  • Look after your health and always seek help. You can't be your own doctor.
  • If you have received a caution or conviction, or been subject to student fitness to practise proceedings, apply early for provisional GMC registration. Your application may take longer if there are matters for the GMC to investigate.
  • Seek advice from the MDU if you have an ethical query or if concerns are raised about your fitness to practise.

This guidance was correct at publication 12/06/2013. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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