GMC plans on-the-spot alcohol and drug tests

GPs will face on-the-spot tests if they are under alcohol or drug-related practice restrictions, in a change to GMC practice.

Last week the GMC council endorsed a report from its Health Review Group that recommended that 'unannounced chemical testing must be a component of the supervision arrangements where the impairment concerns alcohol or drug misuse'.

A 'workplace supervisor', ideally based in the same practice, would be responsible for monitoring the doctor's day-to-day activity and carrying out the tests. This supervisor would work with an off-site medical supervisor.

The report says: 'The appropriate person to act as workplace supervisor will depend on the employing organisation. In general practice it might be a principal at the practice.'

However, there is no requirement for the workplace supervisor to be medically qualified, so practice managers or nurses could fill the role.

GMC council member Dr Krishna Korlipara said that there were occasions when a GP might need to be tested if his behaviour was 'unexplainably bizarre'.

However, he added, 'I would be completely at a loss to understand the circumstances where somebody who is not a doctor can decide if a person is acting unsuitably. If the decision is made by a manager or even a nurse, then what value of clinical judgment can they make?'

He said that 'such serious decisions should never be made by those without clinical training'.

The report endorses the idea of more people knowing about a doctor's health problems and restrictions as a matter of course.

It recommends that anyone appraising a GP be made aware of any GMC undertakings or conditions and that the medical supervisor, workplace supervisor, PCT and any treating doctors be kept informed.


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