Self-declaration of a health issue
In some cases, we recommend that the patient self refers to the regulator and that it would be in their best interests to do so. In these situations, we help the patient draft the email or letter to the regulator. In our experience, self-disclosure is always better than disclosure by a third party. Wherever possible we advise that the doctor seeks legal advice beforehand, either through their Medical Defence Organisation or a solicitor.
The GMC give advice around dealing with health issues https://www.gmc-uk.org/registration-and-licensing/join-the-register/before-you-apply/guidance-on-declaring-health-issues and have funded the BMA to offer support for doctors facing Fitness to Practise Cases (a supporter will offer telephone advise and attend the hearing with you). https://www.bma.org.uk/advice/work-life-support/your-wellbeing/doctor-support-service
Examples where self-disclosure would be in the best interests of the doctor:
- After a drink drive offence, even if the police have already informed the regulator;
- After any caution or formal charge;
- Where the doctor has been seen taking illegal drugs;
- Where the doctor has had a serious complaint at work;
- Where the doctor has been involved in a probity issue which has raised concern at work (e.g. where it is alleged that the doctor has worked when on sick leave, amended patient records, or prescribed in another patient/person’s name).
In a very small minority of patients (around 12 over the last 10 years) where a doctor has refused to self-disclose, we have needed to contact the GMC and/or disclose to their employer because of patient safety concerns, ongoing illegal or harmful activity or where it was in the best interests of the health practitioner.
In many cases there may be no need for the regulator or organisation to be made aware of your health issues. The GMC state in their guidance https://www.gmc-uk.org/-/media/documents/Your_health_matters_1215.pdf_56661104.pdf –
If, with the right support, you are able to manage a health problem so that the care that you give your patients is not affected, then your fitness to practise won’t be affected. So there will be no need for us to be involved or even to know about it.