The GMC is proposing to introduce time limits for how long sanctions on a doctor’s registration are published online or made available to the public.
However, it also wants to transfer online all sanctions given to doctors for complaints arising between 1994 to 2005, where the doctor is still registered, to give patients more information about their doctors.
The GMC’s website includes sanctions placed on a doctor’s registration following fitness to practise investigations from 2005 onwards when electronic records were introduced. Older sanctions, while not published online, are available on request.
Under current rules, when a doctor receives a sanction the outcome is published on the GMC’s website and disclosed to anyone who asks. It remains online indefinitely even after any restrictions have been lifted.
This includes details of doctors who have been suspended, had restrictions on their practice, agreed undertakings such as retraining or been erased from the medical register altogether.
The GMC is proposing new time limits depending on the sanction imposed and whether the doctor is still practising. Under these proposals, for example, a doctor who has been suspended and is still registered would have their sanction published for 20 years, after which it would no longer be made available online or disclosed to the public.
The consultation also includes proposals to make decisions clearer in cases where a doctor has appealed a sanction or agreed undertakings.
Niall Dickson, GMC CEO, said: “Patients and the public have a right to know if there have been serious concerns about their doctor.
“This consultation is about making the information we hold about doctors who have been sanctioned more accessible and making the decisions we take clearer for patients and the public.
“However we also want to be fair to those doctors who have been through our procedures. Under Human Rights law we have to be proportionate and we have also reflected on changes in the law around the disclosure of criminal convictions. As a result we have concluded that publishing sanctions indefinitely in some situations could be disproportionate, if it happened a long time ago or if the doctor is no longer practising.
“We want to strike the correct balance between the rights of patients to know and a doctor’s right to privacy. We are keen to hear from patients, doctors and others with an interest in our work so that we can get this important balance right.”
The consultation will run until 23 September and responses can be sent via the GMC’s website. The results of the consultation will be published in February 2016 and new policies introduced in August 2016.
The results of the consultation will be published in February 2016 and the GMC’s new policy will be published in August 2016.