A review by healthcare experts from across the UK has highlighted a number of key principles for improving services for doctors with mental health and addiction problems.
The experts considered one of the recommendations outlined in the 2014 independent review of doctors who take their own lives while under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC).
The review recommended establishing a national or nationally co-ordinated support service for doctors with mental health or addiction problems.
The review highlighted key principles for the development of services in this area: (i) all such services should be separate from the GMC and seen to be separate; (ii) there must be some liaison with the GMC where there is a risk to patient safety; (iii) there should be clear rules around information disclosure and the relationship with the GMC so that doctors are not discouraged from accessing help; (iv) there need to be systems in place within organisations to encourage early; and (v) awareness and early intervention, as well as making sure there are support services for doctors with complex issues.
“The case for better support for vulnerable doctors has been clearly demonstrated by the amazing work that is already underway”, said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC. “The challenge facing the system as a whole is that such services are not found everywhere. We will certainly work with experts in this area to encourage the development of better support as well as seeking their help as we reform the way we deal with this group of doctors within our procedures.
“We have found this discussion enormously helpful. We have heard a number of important messages from across the UK and we will publish a short report following this discussion. We are also keen to hold another similar event to consider how we are taking forward the other recommendations from the independent review.”
A consultation aimed at making doctors better professionals, communicators and leaders has been launched by the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AoMRC).
The consultation will seek views on a proposed framework for generic professional capabilities sought, including the outcomes that all doctors will have to demonstrate by the end of their postgraduate specialty training.
The framework clarifies the core knowledge, skills and behaviours which doctors need and which are common across all medical specialties, such as effective communication, team-working and patient-centred decision-making.
These and other key capabilities described in the framework are essential for safe, high-quality clinical care and will support doctors’ development as high performing, compassionate and caring professionals.
“UK trained doctors are valued and recognised across the world for their technical expertise”, said Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC. “But alongside this it is vital that every senior doctor has the personal and professional insights and capabilities to deliver, lead and manage high-quality care in complex teams, often in stressful environments or rapidly changing clinical circumstances.
“Patients rightly expect doctors to be good team players, have situational awareness and where necessary to provide effective leadership – they also expect their doctors to be professional, principled and expert communicators.
‘There is evidence that an awareness of human factors and associated generic professional capabilities improve professional practice. By acknowledging, encouraging and embedding the development of these high level professional insights, skills and capabilities into medical training, there is an expectation that we can promote and enable a higher and more consistent level of care for patients. Clinical skills are absolutely vital – they are necessary but on their own not sufficient to guarantee excellent care for patients.”
The GMC/AoMRC consultation is due to run until 22 September 2015.