Dr Caroline Fryar, Medical Defence Union (MDU) head of advisory services, said:
'We welcome this acknowledgement by the GMC that in order to ensure their investigations are fair and balanced, they take into account system failures, when investigating individual doctors.
'As we have seen in the recent high profile cases of doctors prosecuted for gross negligence manslaughter, clinicians can be held individually accountable for tragic incidents in which system errors also played a part. Doctors are often required to make decisions and take action or decide to take no action in circumstances over which they have no control and are far from ideal. For example, they may be short-staffed and trying to do the job or two or more colleagues while juggling the care of seriously ill patients.
'We are glad that the GMC is recognising and taking into account the fact that doctors are often put in a position where they are unable to control their environment and circumstances but must carry on and treat patients as best as they can.'
*The GMC describes human factors as 'a social science which studies and attempts to optimise the interactions of humans, technology and the environment at work. It is a standard tool of safety investigation and improvement in several industries such as civil aviation, nuclear power and military planning which seek to balance high risk and high reliability.'
This guidance was correct at publication 10/10/2018. 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.