Telling tales or doing the right thing? When should you report a colleague to the GDC?
Fitness to practice proceedings are extremely stressful for any medical professional. Perhaps this is best evidenced by the report prepared by the GMC in 2014. It found that between 2005 and 2013, 114 doctors died during fitness to practice proceedings, of these, 28 died of suicide or suspected suicide. The GDC do not record similar statics. This is a conscious decision on their part. In response to Freedom of Information Act request made in December 2015, the GDC stated:
We do not routinely instigate a Serious Event Review (SER) with every reported death during the Fitness to Practise (FTP) process. There are a number of deaths that occur due to pre-existing illnesses or natural causes unconnected with any FTP proceedings.
Given how stressful such proceedings are, it is little wonder some dentists are reluctant to report colleagues to the GDC, especially for minor indiscretions. However, do you have a legal obligation to do so?
GDC – Standards for the Dental Team
Principle 8 states that you must raise concerns if patients are at risk. Principle 8.2.5 goes further, placing a positive duty on you to report a colleague if you have concerns about their fitness to practice due to health, conduct or performance.
Principle 8.1.1 even states:
Your duty to raise concerns overrides any personal and professional loyalties or concerns you might have (for example, seeming disloyal or being treated differently by your colleagues or managers)
Principle 8 is therefore putting a patient’s rights and needs first above any professional loyalties you may have. Patients must have faith in those that treat them and they must not be put at risk. It therefore follows that the profession must monitor and report their peers, in order to protect the public.
This means any serious concerns you have about a colleague’s clinical abilities should be reported to the GDC, whether it be due to performance, health or conduct. Serious concerns would be those that put a patient at risk.
Any minor issues which could be dealt with via training or performance management can be dealt with internally. If you work within the practice you should raise any concerns with the principal. If the principal fails to deal with the concerns, you should consider reporting matters to the GDC. If you own a practice you should deal with concerns as soon as you become aware of them and take action. Monitor performance and if there are no improvements consider what further action you should take, including a report to the GDC.
Remember a failure by you to comply with the Standards for the Dental Team could result in fitness to practice proceedings being commenced against you.
How to Raise a Concern
We understand that raising a concern about a colleague may seem like a daunting task; however, most dentists work hard to ensure high standards and maintain the public’s trust in them.
The GDC has provided this helpful guidance on reporting a colleague if you should have concerns.
If you are worried about any repercussions for raising a concern, you can get advice and assistance from Public Concern at Work, a charity set up by the Government to help employees and employers deal with concerns in the workplace. You will also have protection in employment law from detrimental treatment and dismissal; such protection is likely to extend to associates working under a self-employed contract.
CQC – Fundamental Standards
In addition to your professional duties, Regulation 13 states that service users must be protected from abuse and improper treatment. Ultimately it is the registered provider that is responsible for ensuring compliance, but it can result in prosecution by the CQC if a failure to meet parts of the regulation results in avoidable harm or significant risk to a service users.
In addition the regulations impose a duty of candour. This places a positive duty on registered providers to report to services users when a ‘notifiable safety incident’ occurs and take action. Such action might include reporting a colleague, depending on the seriousness of the incident.
It is not enough to have policies and procedures in place dealing with these issues, staff should be trained and there should be a culture that is open and transparent so staff feel able to report concerns.
If you have any questions about the content of this article please feel free to email Laura Pearce on firstname.lastname@example.org.