Intended for healthcare professionals

Student Careers

Are you fit to practise?

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.060268 (Published 01 February 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:060268
  1. Madeleine Locke, final year medical student1
  1. 1University of Leeds

Medical knowledge and skills do not, intrinsically, make you fit to practise medicine; health and conduct also play a part. Madeleine Locke explains why you should be aware of fitness to practise proceedings

As part of my elective, I spent three weeks at the Medical Protection Society in Leeds. I found it very useful, and was fortunate enough to be able to attend coroners' inquests, and sit in on meetings about various medicolegal matters. While I was at the Medical Protection Society, I was keen to find out what involvement they had with medical students.

What makes a good doctor?

Fitness to practise proceedings reflect the reality that knowledge alone does not make a good doctor. Medicine is a stressful career but also unique in that patients trust you with their health. There must be a system in place to identify individuals as early as possible who for health or conduct reasons cannot be allowed to practise medicine, and that's what fitness to practise is all about.

Most medical schools have fitness to practise proceedings (in addition to general university disciplinary proceedings) to investigate a student's health or conduct where concerns have arisen. They are modelled on the General Medical Council's (GMC's) hearings, which are held when a doctor's health or conduct is alleged to jeopardise patient safety.

The situation at the Medical Protection Society

Since 1994 the Medical Protection Society has been involved in 109 cases involving UK medical students. The breakdown of these are shown in the pie chart below (fig 1).

Fig 1

Cases from the Medical Protection Society involving medical students

Protection Society involving medical students

I was also able to access information about telephone calls that the Medical Protection Society had with medical and dental students. There were 78 phone calls between February 2002 and March 2003 (fig 2).

Fig 2

Telephone calls to the Medical Protection Society from medical and dental students (February …

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