MPS is often contacted by doctors who are surprised that their attitude and behaviour outside the clinical environment has called their fitness to practise into question. Sara Williams shares the story about what happened to Isla when her deanery discovered a serious black mark on her record.
Isla is now an F2 in Aberdeen. A few years ago, during her final year at medical school, Isla got into some trouble on a night out with friends. She was celebrating getting her final results, so had spent most of the day in the pub.
By midnight she was a tad worse for wear so decided to go home. On the way to hail a taxi she spotted her now ex-boyfriend outside a nearby club kissing another girl. Isla saw red and leapt at them, shouting and screaming. A police car spotted what was going on and before Isla knew it she had been arrested and had to spend the night in a cell.
The following morning Isla was allowed to leave without charge, but had to later accept a fiscal fine for breach of the peace. Isla wanted to put the incident behind her so did not declare the incident on her GMC application. She already had an F1 job and her CRB check had already come back fine.
Isla had a fantastic F1 year and she fully registered with the GMC, but the incident came back to bite her in her F2 year. Another CRB check flagged up the incident and she was formally disciplined by her hospital, who also informed the deanery and the GMC. The GMC discovered that she had failed to declare her fiscal fine on either of her applications to the GMC. Isla was then called to a fitness to practise hearing.
MPS stepped in to represent Isla at the GMC and she was given a formal warning that would stay on her record for five years. She also faced significant difficulties at her trust, where she could easily have been dismissed for her failure to accurately complete the job application. Isla learnt the hard way and her F2 year was marred by her dishonesty.
According to Dr Chris Godeseth, Medicolegal Adviser at MPS, the GMC takes probity very seriously. He says: "Unfortunately, a number of medical students and junior doctors will find themselves in a situation similar to this. Although medics are famed for their "work hard, play hard" ethos, they must be aware that their behaviour outside the clinical environment, including that displayed in their personal lives, may come under scrutiny from the GMC. Doctors' behaviour at all times must justify the trust the public places in the medical profession, so there is a similar requirement placed on students."
In this case, Isla failed to declare her caution to the medical school, the GMC, or the trust for whom she had already agreed to work as an F1. All students applying to join the GMC register need to complete a "Fitness to Practise declaration"; she was An inconvenient truth dishonest in hers. While there may not be a strict requirement to declare these issues to your medical school, they will often come to light through the CRB checks performed in later years. But trying to hide or ignore the issue will only make things worse.
Dr Godeseth adds: "The GMC takes any failure to disclose evidence of criminal behaviour very seriously, and often treats this as evidence of dishonesty. If the GMC calls your practice into question it can lead to suspension, which could mean you do not complete medical school at the same time as other graduates from their medical school."
It really is very important that new doctors who find themselves in this situation are open and honest. It's often very embarrassing or difficult to do this, but favourable to any initial mistake being compounded by taking the wrong approach with the medical school, your trust or the GMC.
This case features in one of a series of podcasts exploring fitness to practice cases for junior doctors and medical students. Access them here: www.medicalprotection.org/uk/