On 26 February 2018, the General Medical Council (GMC) introduced changes to the publication and disclosure of information relating to a doctor’s fitness to practise.

This information is published on the GMC’s website via the List of Registered Practitioners (LRMP). This website records on a doctor’s registration any active restrictions or warnings regarding their fitness to practise, warnings issued in the preceding five years, and any expired restrictions.

This publication was for an indefinite period, and this applied to all sanctions on a doctor’s registration, regardless of whether the doctor remained registered with the GMC.

What has the GMC changed?

In an earlier consultation the GMC reviewed its policy on what it publishes and discloses regarding such information. As a result, it has now set time limits for the publication of fitness to practise information.

Details of applicable time limits can be found here and depend on the sanction that has been imposed. Warnings or restrictions on registration are imposed only when there are serious concerns about a doctor’s fitness to practise.

Why the change?

The imposition of time limits strikes a balance between being open and transparent about action taken to protect the public on the one hand, and being proportionate to doctors in relation to historic events, or doctors no longer seeking to work in the profession, on the other hand.

Where do I find the information?

The GMC has introduced a new webpage which lists recent case examiner decisions for a period of 12 months. This is only in respect of cases where action has been taken and will not contain any more information than is published on the doctor’s record on the medical register.

It will not include cases where action is taken solely as a result of concerns about a doctor’s health. This new webpage is intended to improve the transparency of decisions. It has the same purpose as the MPTS’s recent tribunal decisions webpage.

Changes regarding warnings given to doctors

The publication period for new warnings will be reduced from five years to two years. After the two years expire, the warnings will be removed from publication and will not be routinely disclosed to general enquirers or prospective employees. The approach contrasts with the General Dental Council (GDC), where case examiners must examine the duration for which a warning will be published.

We addressed these issues in a previous briefing regarding the retention and disclosure of fitness to practise histories.

We have been involved in a number of successful challenges to regulators’ decisions to publish fitness to practise information. It remains to be seen whether the GMC’s new policy will give rise to challenges in the future.