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GMC considers apology a must for doctors


Doctors could be required to apologise to patients harmed by poor treatment, under new sanctions being considered by the GMC.

GMC officesThe GMC says it does not currently have a sanction that can require a doctor to apologise and is considering whether this should be the case.

Other proposals include guiding disciplinary panels to consider taking action over severe failings in order to maintain public confidence in doctors, even where improvement or remedial action has already been demonstrated.

The proposals are part of a new GMC consultation into public confidence and the medical profession, and how doctors who have serious complaints about them upheld should be dealt with.

Currently, doctors can be removed from the register where a fitness-to-practise panel rules they have shown a persistent lack of insight into the seriousness of their actions.

Under the proposed guidelines, a failure to apologise would be regarded as evidence of a lack of insight.

Raising concerns encouraged
Other proposals listed in the consultation include taking a tougher line on doctors who fail to raise concerns or take prompt action about a colleague’s fitness to practise, and penalising staff guilty of serious clinical errors, even where they have successfully retrained and improved their practice.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said that the aim of the proposals was to ensure public trust and safety while ensuring that any disciplinary action faced by doctors was fair.

He 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.’

Record of events
He said it was also right that patients or their families were told what went wrong and, if appropriate, they should be given a full apology.

Mr Dickson added: ‘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.’

The BMA will be responding to the consultation, launched last week and running until November 14.

The consultation results will be published in 2015.

Read the GMC proposals

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