Tackling toxic health service cultures at heart of new GMC guidance

NEW duties could be placed on doctors to call out bullying and to tackle toxic workplace cultures.

The General Medical Council has placed supportive and inclusive working environments at the heart of proposals to update its core guidance.

The regulator has launched a 12-week consultation on the content of Good medical practice. The guidance, last updated in 2013, outlines the professional values, knowledge and behaviours expected of doctors working in the UK.

Included for the first time is a duty for doctors to act, or support others to act, if they become aware of workplace bullying, harassment or discrimination, as well as zero tolerance of sexual harassment.

The draft guidance also provides greater clarity on the use of social media. A new duty makes clear that doctors must not use digital communications channels to mislead, and they should "make reasonable checks" to avoid doing so.

For the first time the guidance – which will also apply to physician associates and anaesthesia associates when they come under GMC regulation – proposes 12 commitments, including:

  • Make the care of patients my first concern.
  • Demonstrate leadership within my role, and work with others to make healthcare environments more supportive, inclusive and fair.
  • Provide a good standard of practice and care, and be honest and open when things go wrong.
  • Ensure my conduct justifies my patients’ trust in me and the public’s trust in my profession.

Running at 16 pages long, the draft guidance covers areas such as “working with colleagues”, “working with patients”, “professional capabilities” and “maintaining trust”.

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: "There is a lot of evidence of the damage bad workplace cultures can do to patient safety and, ultimately, to the UK’s ability to retain the healthcare professionals it needs. Toxic cultures can also spread online, undermining public trust in the medical profession.

"It is important our guidance reflects the reality of what doctors face and the cultures many are working in, and that it supports them to be able to do the best for their patients and for their colleagues."

The consultation is open until July 20. 

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