The Doctor Support Service, a telephone and email service which offers free confidential emotional support for doctors involved in GMC fitness to practise cases, will continue to operate for at least another 12 months. The GMC first commissioned the BMA to run the service following a successful pilot in 2012. Since then, the GMC says it has provided assistance to 500 doctors.
The service is run by the BMA Doctors for Doctors Unit which employs doctors trained and experienced in providing peer support. The GMC stresses that the service is totally separate from the regulator, which does not get informed if a doctor uses the service, and users don’t have to be BMA members to access it. As well as fitness to practise, it can also support doctors going through a GMC licence to practise withdrawal process.
GMC chief executive, Charlie Massey, said: “Many doctors will be the subject of a complaint at some point in their career, and the GMC has a legal obligation to investigate any allegations which suggest patients could be at risk as a result of a doctor breaching our standards.”
Mr Massey says that anonymised feedback from users via the BMA shows they find it “very helpful and reassuring to be able to talk, in confidence, to other doctors”.
The head of the BMA Doctors for Doctors Unit, Dr Michael Peters, said: “What makes this service unique is the confidential peer-to-peer advice we offer from someone who can truly understand what callers are going through, allowing us to best look after doctors so they can best look after patients.
“Investigations into a doctor’s practice can be extremely stressful regardless of the outcome, and so it’s important to help doctors to cope with this process.”