Intended for healthcare professionals


Doctors’ duty to report poor practice

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 16 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1695
  1. Cathy James, chief executive
  1. 1Public Concern at Work, London SE1 9QQ, UK
  1. cj{at}

Only if there is a culture that supports whistleblowers should doctors be struck off for not raising concerns

The recently relaunched General Medical Council (GMC) guidance, Good Medical Practice, requires all doctors to “act without delay if you have good reason to believe that you or a colleague may be putting patients at risk” in principles 6 and 43,1 which deal with raising concerns about patient safety and the conduct and performance of colleagues. This duty is further explained in new guidance, published in January 2012, which came into effect on 12 March 2012.2 The new guidance expects doctors to encourage and support a culture in which staff can raise concerns openly and safely, and those with additional responsibilities (such as clinical governance or wider management responsibilities) have “a duty to help people report their concerns and to enable people to act on concerns that are raised with them.”2 It is all very well to say that all doctors have a professional duty to blow the whistle, but what does this mean in practice?

Whistleblowing has been thrown into sharp focus by recent scandals at Winterbourne View, where appalling standards of care …

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