The tragic death of Dr Wendy Potts, a GP from Derbyshire who took her own life late last year, was shocking and our thoughts are with her family and friends.
In response to the letters from Professor Jeffrey Tobias, Dr Peter Hayward and Jenifer Bright (2 September), at the time of her death she was registered with a licence to practise. She had not been suspended from practising nor had any restrictions placed on her practice by the GMC.
We take the wellbeing of doctors extremely seriously, particularly those with health concerns. Earlier this year we, along with Professor Louis Appleby, one of the UK’s leading mental health experts and professor of psychiatry at the University of Manchester, developed proposals to reduce, as far as possible, the inevitable stress that our process can have on doctors.
These proposals aim to avoid full investigations whenever possible in cases that are primarily about a doctor’s health. We are pressing for legislative change that would allow us to resolve more investigations consensually where doctors are willing to accept any action needed to protect patients, and would like to pursue this as the preferred outcome. We are also establishing a team of specially trained GMC staff to handle cases where unwell doctors are subject to an investigation.
In addition we are pushing for the NHS to provide improved services for doctors with mental illnesses or addictions.
A doctor’s ill health is not in itself a matter that would require investigation. We would only intervene if we identified a risk to a doctor’s patients because they are not seeking or complying with medical treatment or not taking steps to protect patients, for example working when not fit to do so.
The GMC is here to protect patients, not to punish doctors, and wherever possible we aim to support doctors’ recovery and help them return to safe practice.
Chief executive, General Medical Council
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