Two doctors are referred to GMC for taking industrial action

Authors: Zosia Kmietowicz 

Publication date:  10 Jul 2012


The General Medical Council has confirmed that it has received complaints about two doctors who took part in industrial action over pensions on 21 June,[1] although no further information is available about who the doctors are, the allegations against them, or whether action will be taken.

Doctors voted to take industrial action for the first time in 40 years after they were balloted by the BMA.[2] They agreed to provide urgent and emergency care only and to postpone all non-urgent cases for 24 hours, in protest at the government’s proposed changes to the NHS pension scheme.

An estimated 11 500 doctors—just over 8% of NHS doctors in England—took part in the industrial action. About 2700 elective operations (9% of the total) and 18 750 outpatient appointments (9.4%) were cancelled and rescheduled on the day, and a quarter of GP surgeries took urgent appointments only.

Guidance issued by the BMA ahead of the protest emphasised that patients’ safety was an “over-riding priority” and that doctors’ “professional responsibilities as defined by the GMC would not be suspended,” said a spokesman.

The guidance said: “You must continue to make decisions about your actions as a doctor taking individual circumstances into account. Any decisions that you take should be informed by your lawful right to take industrial action but also by your professional responsibility as a doctor, which is not suspended by industrial action. The GMC imposes an obligation on doctors to ensure suitable patient care when they are off duty.”

The GMC said that it would look into complaints about doctors taking part in industrial action only if patient safety was compromised.

After the BMA’s decision to take industrial action, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: “Our job is to protect patients and provide advice and support for doctors. Our guidance is clear: a doctor’s first duty is to his or her patient. As the BMA has itself made clear, patient safety must be the overriding priority.

“Doctors must make sure arrangements are in place to care for their patients. Their actions must not harm patients or put them at risk.

“We recognise that the circumstances facing each doctor will be different—it will therefore be a matter for each individual to assess their own situation and make sure they follow this guidance.”

References

  1. Jaques H. Industrial action live blog. BMJ Group blog, 21 Jun 2012. http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2012/06/21/helen-jaques-industrial-action-live-blog.
  2. Jaques H. Doctors to take industrial action over pensions in June. BMJ  2012;344:e3860.

Zosia Kmietowicz London

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