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03 October 2019
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I am worried about one of the doctors in my area. I have heard stories that suggest their practice is not performing as well as it used to. They have stopped attending meetings and they don't go to CME regularly. I feel I need to reach out to this doctor and wonder how I should go about it.

Approaching another doctor that you are concerned about is always tricky and can be embarrassing for both parties. Sometimes there is a straightforward reason like family pressures or illness. Sometimes the issue is a personal stress, work-related burnout or a physical or psychological illness. The wrong thing to do would be to ignore this situation and hope that someone else intervenes. The right thing to do is to take some action. There are several options depending on the issues involved. Sometimes it might be as simple as asking them how they are keeping on the way out from a CME meeting or medical education meeting. If you don't cross paths at this then you might telephone them and have a collegial chat, or to arrange to meet up for a coffee or lunch. If you are not sure what to do you can contact the ICGP Doctors Health in Practice Programme.

If you have any concerns for patient safety or of substance misuse then it changes the urgency level and it also gives you a responsibility to act under the Ethical Guidelines of the Medical Council. See Section 59

In some situations you would be wise to enlist the support of another colleague and go together to meet the colleague and discuss your concerns, remembering that helping a colleague is not equal to performing a medical assessment or offering to be their GP – it means encouraging them to seek formal medical care from a GP in the first instance, and if necessary a further assessment by a specialist. If the problem is due to substance misuse they should self refer to the Practitioner Health Matters Programme who will arrange an outpatient appointment for assessment.

Sometimes a doctor may need to be referred to the Health Committee of the Medical Council, which is not a Fitness to Practice process but a supportive system that guides the doctor on their fitness to work while receiving medical care and supports them to get back to work if they have taken sick leave.


Further guidance and ongoing support in approaching a doctor you have concerns about, or supporting a doctor in difficulty can be had on an individual case basis from the ICGP Doctors Health in Practice programme helpline 087 7519307.