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Medico-legal helpline

0800 716 646

Insight and remediation

1 August 2010

The scene

A junior doctor was referred to the GMC by the family of a deceased patient whom he had treated in his capacity as an SHO on the medical assessment unit. The doctor was advised by the MDU and, having obtained an independent expert opinion which was supportive of the care he had provided to the patient, the GMC closed the case with no further action.

Several months later, the doctor was asked to provide a statement for the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) in relation to their investigation of a nurse who had been involved in the care of the same patient. The doctor was asked for a statement but, having little to say and as he was very busy, had decided not to provide a statement. A complaint was made to the GMC about the doctor's failure to co-operate with the investigation. He subsequently received a second letter from the GMC. He rang the MDU advisory helpline.

MDU advice

Speedy remediation helped a junior doctor at a GMC investigation A junior doctor was referred to the GMC by the family of a deceased patient whom he had treated in his capacity as an SHO on the medical assessment unit. The doctor was advised by the MDU and, having obtained an independent expert opinion which was supportive of the care he had provided to the patient, the GMC closed the case with no further action.

Several months later, the doctor was asked to provide a statement for the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) in relation to their investigation of a nurse who had been involved in the care of the same patient. The doctor was asked for a statement but, having little to say and as he was very busy, had decided not to provide a statement. A complaint was made to the GMC about the doctor's failure to co-operate with the investigation. He subsequently received a second letter from the GMC.

He rang the MDU advisory helpline. The adviser explained that doctors have an ethical obligation to co-operate with any formal inquiry into the treatment of a patient, including any investigation into the conduct, performance or health of a colleague. The doctor had not realised that he was under such an ethical obligation. With the MDU's assistance, he responded to the GMC complaint immediately, expressing regret for having not co-operated in full with the NMC investigation, with an apology for the inconvenience caused. He also reassured the GMC that, having learnt from this experience, he would co-operate in full if a similar situation arose in future.

The GMC closed the case with no further action, and no warning. The letter from the GMC to the doctor explained that, in coming to a decision to close the case with no further action, the GMC Case Examiners had taken into account mitigating factors, including the doctor's level of insight and genuine apology. The doctor was reminded to adhere to the ethical obligation to co-operate with such investigations in future, but the GMC determined that a warning would be disproportionate.

GMC warnings are a matter of public record for five years and, once expired, are still disclosed to employers and potential employers. The doctor was, understandably, delighted with the outcome of this case, which illustrates the importance placed by the GMC on insight and remediation. Doctors are not expected to be perfect, but, where things have gone wrong, the GMC expects them to learn from that experience.

This guidance was correct at publication 31/07/2010. 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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