The treatment of vulnerable doctors during fitness to practice investigations is due to be reviewed following revelations that 28 doctors committed suicide between 2005 and 2013.
The internal review by the General Medical Council (GMC) found that many of the doctors who committed suicide during this period had previously diagnosed mental health conditions.
It was also found that there were other concerns that may have contributed to their deaths such as marriage breakdowns and financial hardship as well as GMC investigation.
A number of recommendations have been made for reducing the impact of investigations on doctors who have health problems.
These recommendations include appointing a senior medical officer within the GMC to ensure that every doctor should feel they are treated as ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
The review places emphasis upon the support that should be given to new or vulnerable doctors and recommends the establishment of a National Support Service for doctors.
Niall Dickson, CEO of the GMC, said: “We know that some doctors who come into our procedures have very serious health concerns, including those who have had ideas of committing suicide. We know too that for any doctor, being investigated by the GMC is a stressful experience and very often follows other traumas in their lives.
“Our first duty must, of course, be to protect patients but we are determined to do everything we can to make sure we handle these cases as sensitively as possible.”
Dr Mark Porter, chair of BMA Council, commented: “The GMC’s previous research exposed doctors’ views of the investigation process and it is clear that more needs to be done to understand the wider implications on doctors’ mental health, and the care they feel able to deliver.
“We are pleased that the GMC…is putting in place measures to provide the right support.”