Response to the General Medical Council consultation on Changes to the information they publish and disclose about a doctor’s fitness to practise
We welcome the opportunity to respond to this consultation. For the most part, these proposals would result in greater transparency and clearer information for the public and employers.
However, the consultation document does not explain what has prompted this review of its Fitness to Practise (FtP) publication policies – the current version of the Publication and Disclosure Policy is not due for review until May 2017. As the consultation document deals with appeals of Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) decisions by the registrant, it is surprising that it mentions neither appeals by the Professional Standards Authority1 , nor appeals by the GMC – a new power which we understand will be coming into force over the next few months.
The GMC is subject to a number of different pieces of legislation relevant to these changes: the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Medical Act 1984. We would have expected the document to make greater reference to the governing legislation to explain and support these proposals.
The publication and disclosure of information about a doctor’s fitness to practise serves three purposes: to protect the public, to maintain public confidence in the profession and to uphold professional standards.
Some of these proposals put new time limits on the publication of sanctions. Regardless of how long it is fair or legal to publish information that links a doctor to a sanction, it is important that the information about the facts and reasoning underpinning a sanction decision are kept in the public domain – perhaps indefinitely – so that the functions of maintaining public confidence in the profession and upholding professional standards can be fulfilled. Beyond a certain date, any identifiable information may need to be removed out of fairness to the registrant, but the anonymised decision needs to remain published.