Intended for healthcare professionals


GMC warnings should be scrapped, says MDU

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 17 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6893
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. 1BMJ Careers
  1. arimmer{at}

The General Medical Council should scrap the warnings it sends to doctors, the Medical Defence Union has said. The MDU said that receiving a warning, which is a low level GMC sanction, could negatively affect a doctor’s career because employers mistook them for something more serious.

Catherine Wills, deputy head of advisory services at the MDU, said, “Many employers, contracting bodies, and other organisations providing medical services do not understand the intended impact of warnings and assume they are an indication of serious concerns, which they are not. Doctors’ careers can be adversely affected as a result, and we don’t think this was what was originally intended.”

In response to a GMC consultation on guidance on indicative sanctions and the role of apologies and warnings, the MDU also criticised proposed changes to the regulator’s guidance on sanctions.1 It objected to changes that would mean that fitness to practise panels could automatically consider serious action against doctors who failed to comply with certain aspects of GMC guidance.

Wills said, “All aspects of a doctor’s practice are equally important to ensure high standards of patient care and safety. Introducing guidance that would automatically lead to more serious sanctions for certain breaches would create an artificial and misleading distinction.

“Of course, doctors should raise concerns if they are worried about the safety of patients, colleagues, or others, but surely it is equally important that they don’t breach patient confidentiality and that they make sure they get consent from patients.”

The MDU also objected to the proposal that fitness to practise panels should be able to require doctors to apologise to patients if they had not already done so.


View Abstract