MDU successfully defends GP member involved in five years of investigations into one incident

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has successfully supported a GP member with a series of investigations that followed a patient death. The GP was eventually exonerated, but not before responding to a complaint, claim, NHS England investigation and GMC investigation over a five-year period.

The MDU is encouraging healthcare professionals to get support from colleagues and their medical defence organisation as soon as they become aware of a concern.

The GP, a partner and trainer at a large practice in England, spoke to the MDU journal anonymously about the impact of the investigations on his work and wellbeing. He explained:

“In general, I think I’m a strong character who doesn’t give in that easily, but the situation definitely affected me. I felt angry inside and I felt I was losing my temper more easily. I’m normally thorough, but I was conscious of being extra careful with everything I did because I felt like I had another pair of eyes watching me. It was a very, very rough time.

“As a doctor it’s very scary to be the subject of a fitness to practise investigation, and after everything I went through, it’s still the thing I worry about the most. Sadly, I think doctors who have experiences like mine could easily feel they’ve had enough and leave the profession.”

At the GMC the case reached the stage at which formal allegations were made, although with the help of the MDU, the GP was cleared without the case going to a formal hearing.

Dr Catherine Wills, deputy head of advisory services at the MDU, said:

“Our GP member was ultimately exonerated but underwent an incredibly stressful and prolonged series of investigations. They cast a long shadow over both his professional and personal life. While it’s right that doctors remain accountable for their actions or omissions, it’s hard to think of another profession in which an individual can face so many investigations into one incident.

“This inevitably takes its toll on the doctor involved and we encourage any member who becomes aware of a concern to contact us at the earliest opportunity. We aim to make what can be a very stressful and difficult experience more manageable, so our members can see the light at the end of the tunnel and are able to carry on with their chosen profession.”

The MDU has a peer support network for members who are struggling with a complex medico-legal matter, connecting them with a colleague who has been through a similar process. These colleagues offer personal support, guidance and reassurance.