The General Medical Council (GMC) has announced that it will introduce time limits on the time taken to publish information regarding doctors who face sanctions following fitness to practice investigations.
This new guideline follows public consultations, and will come into force early next year.
Once the new system is in place, information regarding doctors who have had conditions on the registration, or any suspension of up to three months, will be publicly available for a decade.
Doctors who have been suspended for more than three months will have their information made available for 15 years.
If a doctor has been struck off at any time, this information will also be published for 10 years.
And where a doctor receives restrictions on their registration solely as a result of health concerns, this information will be removed from their public record when the restrictions are lifted.
The new policy from the General Medical Council is intended to improve transparency, and also to ensure that the publication of sanctions is proportionate and reflects existing human rights law.
The GMC was concerned that the existing approach to this matter failed to ensure satisfactory public protection.
Previously, if a doctor received a sanction the outcome would be published on the GMC’s website indefinitely; even after restrictions were lifted or the doctor had left the register.
Commenting on the issue, Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, reflected that this is a necessary change to the policy of the GMC, and one that serves the public interest.
“Patients have a right to know if there have been any serious concerns about a doctor and we must be transparent about any sanctions that are imposed following an investigation. This will continue. However, it is also important that we are fair to doctors and proportionate in our approach. A mistake made in the early part of a career should not necessarily cast a shadow over the rest of the time that doctor is practising. We wanted to strike the right balance between transparency and proportionality, and our consultation has helped achieve this.”
The council has also announced plans to provide greater explanation of decisions to resolve cases consensually with doctors will, and this will also be provided via the GMC website.
And clear information regarding appeal outcomes, in order to enhance public understanding about a particular doctor’s case, will also be made available.
The General Medical Council will continue to treat information solely about a doctor’s health as confidential, and has also agreed not to publish information about a doctor’s fitness to practise on the online register after a doctor has died.