DOCTORS who harm patients could face sanctions even if they have improved their practice under new proposals from the General Medical Council.
They would also be made to apologise to patients if they have previously failed to do so and refusing to say sorry could lead to a tougher sanction.
The proposals are part of a major consultation by the regulator looking at how serious complaints should be dealt with.
Under the plans, doctors could face restrictions on their practice, suspension or even be erased from the register if it is shown that they knew, or should have known, they were causing harm to patients in serious cases. This could happen even if they have subsequently improved their practice.
The GMC is seeking views from the profession and the public on a number of measures.
This includes taking a tougher stance in cases where doctors fail to raise concerns about a colleague’s fitness to practise or take prompt action where a patient’s basic care needs are not being met.
The proposals also target doctors who bully colleagues and put patients at risk or those who discriminate against others in their professional or personal life.
GMC Chief Executive Niall Dickson said that while the “vast majority” of cases involve “one-off clinical errors” that are not pursued by the regulator, doctors must be held to account in the most serious cases.
“There have been occasions when we have been prevented from taking action in serious cases because the doctor has been able to show that they have subsequently improved their practice,” he said. “We believe that doctors and patients want stronger action in these serious cases.
“It is also right that patients or their families are told what went wrong and if appropriate they should be given a full apology. We believe this should be taken into account when deciding what if any sanction needs to be imposed to protect future patients and uphold the reputation of the profession.”
The consultation runs until November 14 and the findings published next year. This will be used to inform a new version of the GMC’s Indicative Sanctions Guidance used by Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) panels.