Letters Getting welfare to work

Response from the General Medical Council

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d1623 (Published 15 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1623
  1. Jane O’Brien, assistant director 1
  1. 1Standards and Fitness to Practise Directorate, General Medical Council, London NW1 3JN, UK
  1. jobrien{at}gmc-uk.org

Cooper is mistaken in thinking that the principle of making the care of your patients your first concern does not apply to doctors when they are assessing benefits claimants on behalf of Atos.1 Our guidance is for all doctors, and it uses the term “patient” to refer to all those whom doctors test, treat, or assess in their professional capacity as a doctor. This includes employees, benefits and insurance claimants, and athletes.

The first duty of all doctors is “to make the care of your patient your first concern.” But that is not the only duty doctors have. Being open and honest and acting with integrity is also an essential part of medical professionalism. Good medical practice provides guidance, not a set of rules, so doctors must use their judgment to apply the duties and principles defined in our guidance to the various situations they face, whether or not they routinely see patients in a therapeutic role or any other role.

Dishonesty in writing reports cannot be justified by reference to the first duty of doctors. Further advice on disclosing information for employment, insurance, and similar purposes can be found in our supplementary guidance.2


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1623


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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