In October the GMC updated its guidance on reporting criminal and regulatory proceedings. Among the main changes was a clarification of doctors’ obligations to inform the GMC about fixed penalty notices for offences such as shoplifting, criminal damage and threatening behaviour. There was also a new duty on doctors to tell the GMC about warnings for the possession of cannabis or anti-social behaviour orders.
But as in most things – the devil is in the detail. In the guidance the GMC states that a doctor must inform the GMC without delay if "you accept the option of paying a Penalty Notice for Disorder at the upper tier penalty level or a Fixed Penalty Notice under the Anti-Social Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004".
The GMC further clarifies that payment of a fixed penalty notice for a road traffic offence or one issued by a local authority, for example for offences such as dog fouling or noise, will not raise questions about a doctor’s registration and need not be reported to the GMC. But offences at the upper tier penalty level in England and Wales, and covered by anti-social behaviour legislation in Scotland must be reported.
So what is an upper tier penalty? A link to a Home Office website in the GMC guidance provides a list which includes offences such as:
- Throwing fireworks
- Disorderly behaviour while drunk in a public place
- Theft (under £200 retail/commercial only)
- Destroying or damaging property (limited to damage under £500)
- Behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress
- Buys or attempts to buy alcohol on behalf of a person under 18
Another link to an OPSI website offers guidance on anti-social behaviour offences in Scotland, including "being drunk in a public place in charge of a child" or "persisting, to annoyance of others, in playing musical instruments, singing, playing radios etc. on being required to stop". These lists are by no means exhaustive and leave a level of ambiguity. So as a ‘cover-all’ the GMC guidance further states:
"If you are unsure whether or not to inform the GMC about any of the matters set out in paragraph 4 [of the guidance] you should seek advice from a defence body, medical association or from the GMC."
MDDUS encourages members to get in touch for clarification on GMC obligations in reporting any offences apart from minor traffic violations. Better to err on the safe side than risk censure for non-disclosure.
ACTION: Contact the MDDUS for advice on GMC disclosure of any criminal offences apart from minor traffic violations.