Doctors warned on care of patients

A TOUGH new warning to doctors that they must treat their patients like human beings or risk being struck off the medical register is to be issued by the General Medical Council.

Doctors will be told that they must measure up to the standards of competence, care and conduct set out in Good Medical Practice, a new edition of which is due to be approved by the council today. In particular, that means providing care and comfort, listening to patients and explaining matters to them, as well as treating their illnesses with knowledge and skill.

The new edition says that being registered as a doctor brings rights and privileges and if problems arise "these are the standards against which you will be judged." The previous edition said merely that it was providing guidance, not a set of rules.

Sir Donald Irvine, president of the council, said there was a danger that with the onward march of science and technology the humanity of medicine was being forgotten: "For some doctors there is a pre-occupation with getting the science right. Listening to patients' concerns and feelings, offering explanations, answering questions - these are the facets we want to pay attention to."

He said developments such as the Internet would in some cases make patients more knowledgeable than their doctors. "It will put more power into the hands of patients. The question is how [the knowledge] is to be used. The fundamental point is the quality of the doctor patient relationship."

Good Medical Practice sets out doctors' duties to keep up to date, maintain patients' trust, and protect them from other doctors whose health or performance is a threat. It says when a patient suffers serious harm, the doctor should explain fully and honestly what has happened. In the case of a child, the parents should be told.

This part of the guidance follows a case in which family members were told by the courts that doctors had no legal obligation to tell them what had happened when their child died. Sir Donald said that under the new guidance those doctors would have been in breach of the professional code. "It recognises that doctors have wider professional and ethical responsibilities than the law requires them to have," he said.

First published in 1995, Sir Donald said Good Medical Practice set out what people could expect from doctors and was "the best thing the GMC has ever done". He said a "revolution" was under way with medical organisations seeking to introduce standards. "The job now is to get beyond the glossy brochure stage and make the statements stick and become embedded in practice. We are saying if there are departures from it, doctors will be held to account."

A survey of 800 doctors conducted for the GMC showed that while most agreed sanctions should be applied to doctors who abused their position or acted dishonestly, one-third disagreed that this was appropriate for doctors who failed to treat every patient politely, or to give them information in a way they understood. Sir Donald said: "The GMC seems closer to the public than the profession on that point."

The survey showed that only half the doctors had read Good Medical Practice. Professor Cyril Chantler, chairman of the council's standards committee, said ignorance would be no defence. "Whether or not one has read it, one will be judged by it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence