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Call for reform of Medical Council investigation process

By Reporter - 12th Jun 2024

burnout

The Medical Council’s investigation process is having a “significant impact” on the health of doctors, according to new research.

The Medical Protection Society (MPS) has called for urgent reform to how the Medical Council investigates doctors, following the results of a recent survey it conducted.

In the MPS survey of 114 practitioners who have been investigated by the Medical Council in the last five years, more than three quarters (77 per cent) said the investigation had a detrimental impact on their mental health, and 93 per cent said it caused stress and anxiety.

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents considered quitting medicine due to their investigation, whilst one in ten either left or retired early. Some 12 per cent also reported experiencing suicidal thoughts during their investigation.

In the survey, 70 per cent of respondents said the length of the investigation impacted on their mental health the most, with some investigations lasting several years.

Dr James Thorpe, Deputy Medical Director at MPS, said: “MPS supports doctors from the moment a Medical Council complaint is received through to its conclusion. We see how the investigation takes its toll on the mental health of those involved, and these survey results are worrying.

“We understand that the Medical Council aims to protect the public by ensuring the high standards of professional conduct and competence among doctors, however, we feel it could operate and communicate with doctors under investigation with more compassion. For example, acknowledging the stress of the investigation, signposting to wellbeing services, providing regular updates, and breaking down legalistic language.

“Members tell us the length of their investigation has the most impact on their mental health, and sadly this comes as no surprise; we are aware of some complaints taking up to seven years to resolve, which is unacceptable.

 “We know the Medical Council is in some respects bound by its regulatory framework and statutory obligations which cause delays, but we believe there are several steps the regulator could take outside of the framework to improve their own processes. A review into Medical Council processes, and the length of investigations, would be welcomed.”

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