Sara Williams, Editor at MPS, talks through some of the issues for sessional GPs if they encounter a cause for concern in the workplace.

Sessional GPs have a unique insight into the workings of practices and are able to compare and contrast the approaches adopted by different teams. Sessional GPs can come across challenging situations if they unearth a concern about a practice that could potentially compromise patient care.

So what should sessional GPs do if you come across a practice or a practitioner that gives you cause for concern? Sessional GPs should be mindful of their professional obligations; see the GMC’s publication Good Medical Practice (2013), paragraphs 43, 44 and 45. The guidance unequivocally states that you have an obligation to protect patients from the risk of harm posed by another colleague’s performance, conduct or health.

The guidance also states that you should take prompt steps to prevent harm to patients. It adds that this should involve providing a factual explanation to an appropriate person from your employing or contracting body, and that you should follow their procedures.

Here are some top tips for raising concerns:

  • The decision to become a whistleblower is never easy.
  • If a sessional GP uncovers a concern that is a threat to patient safety, they must take prompt action.
  • The action will usually involve reporting the concern to an appropriate person at the practice in a factual and honest way.
  • If the practice does not take prompt, proportionate and reasonable action to prevent a risk to the patient, then you should consider involving the local commissioning body and/or the relevant regulatory body.
  • You should not hesitate to contact your medical defence organisation (MDO) if you are unsure how to proceed.

In summary, while sessional GPs may be placed in an invidious position if they discover a problem that poses a threat to patient care, they still have an obligation to take prompt action in order to eliminate any risk to patients.

Taking the decision to raise concerns about a colleague can be difficult as a sessional GP, as it may lead to feelings of uncertainty and isolation. Sessional GPs should not hesitate to call their MDO helpline to discuss the range of available options, if they are faced with such a dilemma.