The General Medical Council (GMC) has published a report on doctors who have died while under fitness to practise investigation or during a period of monitoring.
The data shows that 29 doctors died while under GMC investigation or monitoring over the three-year period 1 January 2018 – 31 December 2020. The cause of death of 20 were from natural causes; six were of external causes, of which five were confirmed as suicide; and three were from unspecified reasons.
The data, which will now be published on an annual basis, has been introduced following a new process for obtaining and recording the cause of death of doctors who die while they are in the regulator’s fitness to practise procedures.
The work is part of the GMC’s wider drive to reduce the impact and stress of its processes. In recent years, the regulator has commissioned an independent review looking at cases where doctors had died from suicide while under investigation. The GMC also appointed a leading independent mental health expert, Professor Louis Appleby, to advise on how it could make its approach more sensitive, supportive and compassionate to the needs of doctors, which led to wide range reforms of the fitness to practise process.
Anthony Omo, Director of Fitness to Practise and General Counsel at the GMC, said:
‘Complaints can be extremely distressing for doctors, patients and their families. Although we’ve come a long way in improving how we handle them, we will continue to listen to feedback to identify further improvements that we can make to our processes or how we communicate with doctors.
‘Any death is tragic and when it happens, we undertake a review to ensure we understand and learn any lessons. If any improvements can be made, we move with pace to implement them.’