General Medical Council issues post-Shipman doctors' guidelines

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LONDON (Reuters) - The General Medical Council (GMC) launched a national poster campaign on Monday to alert the public about new guidelines for doctors that encourage them to work more closely with patients.

After a two-year consultation with doctors, patients and the public the medical watchdog has updated its "Good Medical Practice" guide on professional standards with a major focus on doctors' duty to work in partnership with patients.

The GMC said this included their responsibility to advise patients about the link between health and lifestyle choices.

Revisions also include extra advice on working with children and new guidelines on relationships with patients, including the inappropriateness of sexual relations with former patients or treatment of people well known to the doctor.

Another key area reviewed was whistleblowing on colleagues or other doctors under their care suspected of being unfit to practise.

"Patients trust doctors with their lives and wellbeing, and they need to have confidence that doctors are both clinically competent and abide by high ethical standards," said GMC President Sir Graeme Catto.

The first comprehensive re-drafting of Good Medical Practice since it was first published in 1995 comes after the GMC has drawn criticism following a series of high-profile cases such as the Harold Shipman inquiry.

Manchester GP Shipman killed some 250 of his patients -- many of them elderly women -- between 1972 and 1988.

Guidelines on child protection have also been reviewed partly as a result of the wrongful conviction of several women of murdering their babies following misleading evidence from Professor Sir Roy Meadow.

The leading paediatrician was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off the medical register. He later successfully appealed against being struck off.

The GMC has sent 240,000 doctors across the country its new version of the guide, which was welcomed by health charity Asthma UK.

"It will help patients to understand the standard of care they should expect from their doctor and places them at the heart of decisions about their treatment," said Rosie Newbigging, Executive Director of Nations, Regions and Services at Asthma UK.

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