Assurances by the General Medical Council that it will consider the context of winter pressures are not reassuring doctors.

We previously reported on the General Medical Council’s (GMC) joint statement, in which the medical regulator said:

In such challenging times, when you may need to depart from established procedures to care for people, we understand some could be fearful that they will be referred to your regulator. Please be assured that your professional code and principles of practice are there to guide and support your judgments and decision-making in all circumstances. This includes taking into account local realities and the need at times to adapt practice at times of significantly increased national pressure. In the unlikely event that you are referred to your professional regulator, they will consider the context you were working in at the time, including all relevant resources, guidelines or protocols.

The statement was co-signed by the by four UK chief medical officers, the regulator the Care Quality Commission, and England’s national medical director.

However, The BMJ reported that doctors were no assured by the GMC’s statement.  According to The BMJ, London GP Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, told them:

“I did not find the letter from the CMOs and GMC reassuring. The letter seems to imply that doctors and other NHS staff should be expecting to work in substandard conditions this winter, where there will be significant threats to patient safety and the quality of healthcare.”

“Doctors who have made errors in the past while working under difficult circumstances have not been treated well by their NHS employers or the GMC and have been scapegoated for wider system failures.”

In addition, Asangaedem Akpan, a consultant geriatrician in northwest England, said:

“I truly believe that our senior colleagues who have written these letters believe what they have written and are individuals with credibility and integrity. However, as a person of colour I have no confidence that I or any clinician of colour will be treated fairly or the same as a white clinician. This is because the system is institutionally racist and discriminatory, and until such a time when it is reformed so that everyone is treated the same way I do not trust the referral process to be fair.”

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