GMC to Change their Time Limits for Publishing Sanctions
Currently the GMC publishes details of the sanctions imposed against doctors following fitness to practise investigations indefinitely. This remains the case even if a doctor leaves the register, either voluntarily or via erasure. The rationale for this was always that it must be in the public’s interest for such information to be available and so the GMC were keen to be seen to be transparent about the outcome of their regulation of doctors.
The GMC hold the view that patients have a right to know if their doctor has been the subject of an investigation regarding their fitness to practise. The GMC has for a long time now been very clear that its remit is to protect the public, not doctors. However, following a public consultation, and conscious of a doctor’s right to privacy and other human rights issues, the concept of indefinite publication of sanctions by the GMC is changing.
From early 2017 the GMC are introducing time limits on the publication of sanction information on their website. If the GMC impose conditions on a doctor or suspend them for up to 3 months, this information will be publicly available for 10 years. Doctors receiving a suspension for over 3 months will have that information publicly available for 15 years. Where a doctor has been struck off, that information will be publicly available for 10 years. In the event that a doctor is restored in the future, their original erasure will be publicly available whilst they remain on the register plus an additional 5 years after they leave.
Once a doctor has died, the GMC have now agreed not to publish information about their fitness to practise on the online register, given that there is little, if any, justification for this.
The GMC have recognised that there is a need for more proportionate regulation of doctors and that it was necessary to have more of a balance between transparency for the public and proportionality for doctors.
If you would like more information on any of the issues raised in this article, or you have any legal concerns regarding the GMC, take a look at our GMC Lawyers service page, Fitness to Practise, or contact us directly.