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Practice staff must not be ‘gagged’ – GMC

26 January 2012

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Practices issuing contracts that include ‘gagging clauses’ will be investigated and punished, the General Medical Council (GMC) has said.

A handful of doctors found signing such contracts in recent months has prompted the regulator to “make absolutely clear” that gagging clauses are  “unacceptable” and must not be tolerated.

“Doctors who sign such contracts are breaking their professional obligations and are putting patients, and their careers, at risk,” said Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC.

“Furthermore, doctors in management roles should not promote such contracts or encourage other doctors to sign them.”

The GMC has pledged to take “proactive steps” to find out who has been complicit in the development of these harmful contracts.

The guidance Raising and acting on concerns about patient safety also says that doctors have a responsibility to be their “brother and sister’s keepers”, as they are ultimately – for both the public and the GMC – where the buck stops when it comes to a patient’s well-being.

“We have sleepwalked into a situation where if every doctor, nurse or physiotherapist is seen to do their bit, then nobody is ultimately responsible or accountable when something goes wrong,” said Professor Sir Peter Rubin, Chair of the GMC.

“If a doctor sees a problem with a patient, even if it is nothing to do with them, it is still their responsibility to try to sort the issue out and not walk away.”

In a bid to engage with the profession to bring about cultural change, the GMC has deployed teams of employment liaison advisors and regional advisors throughout the country to engage with medical directors, the wider service and patient groups on leadership issues.