Please note while the guidance below is specifically for doctors in Northern Ireland, most of the content is applicable to all doctors. We do advise that doctors across the UK should also refer to the GMC guidance on reporting convictions.
We are all familiar with the fact that when applying for jobs within the Health Service, we must declare if we have ever had any criminal convictions in the past or are the subject of proceedings that might lead to a criminal conviction.
However, did you know that you have on-going responsibilities throughout the duration of your employment in regard to criminal conviction declarations?
This guidance will help you understand the legal, contractual and professional requirements and to clarify your responsibilities as doctors in this regard.
Doctors should also refer to the GMC guidance on reporting convictions.
What is a criminal conviction?
A criminal conviction applies to all convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings. This includes minor misdemeanours, such as:
- spent sentences, cautions, and any matters currently under investigation
- any conviction, caution or investigation in relation to a criminal offence
- road traffic offences (speeding, parking fines) except where the matter has been dealt with by way of a 'fixed penalty notice' as such matters do not constitute a criminal conviction
- investigations or determinations by any of the other UK health regulatory bodies, as well as by a primary care organisation
If you have any doubt as to whether or not you hold a criminal conviction, seek advice from the BMA, your HR Department or Medical Defence Body.
What you must do
Inform the GMC without delay if, anywhere in the world, you:
- formally admit to committing a criminal offence (for example by accepting a caution)
- are charged with a criminal offence
- are found guilty of a criminal offence
- receive a warning for the possession of cannabis
- are given an Anti-Social Behaviour Order whether as the result of civil or criminal proceedings
- have had your registration restricted, or have been found guilty of an offence by another medical or other professional regulatory body
You must also comply with any reporting requirements of your employing or contracting organisation.
Why you must disclose
Fitness to practice
It is important that the GMC takes prompt and appropriate action to protect patients when a doctor's fitness to practice is in question. Police forces inform the GMC when a doctor is charged with an offence, cautioned or convicted of a criminal offence. Doctors are also required to inform the GMC directly about these matters.
Fixed penalty notices
Fixed penalty notices can be issued for some criminal offences. Where these are settled by payment of a fine, no criminal conviction is recorded. Payment of a fixed penalty notice for a road traffic offence or a fixed penalty notice issued by local authorities, for example for offences such as dog fouling or noise, will not raise questions about a doctor's registration, and need not be reported to the GMC. However, the commission of offences dealt with by Penalty Notices for Disorder at the upper tier penalty level may raise questions about a doctor's fitness to practice and must be reported to the GMC.
Using or possessing illegal drugs
The use or possession of illegal drugs (including cannabis) may raise a question about a doctor's fitness to practice, so you must also tell the GMC if you receive a warning for such offences.
Anti-social behaviour orders
Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) are court orders which prohibit the perpetrator from specific anti-social behaviours and may raise questions about a doctor's fitness to practice, whether they are issued as a result of criminal or civil proceedings.
Failure to disclose may raise issues around probity. It is therefore in your interest to disclose, and if you are unsure to seek advice immediately from the BMA or your medical defence body.
Legislation where you are
Legislation in England and Wales
For more information on the legislation in England and Wales, please refer to the guidance on GOV.UK website
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) from GOV.UK
Legislation in Northern Ireland
There are two pieces of legislation directly relevant for doctors in Northern Ireland:
- the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978
- the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order Northern Ireland 1979
The first of these orders sets out time limits under which a criminal conviction becomes 'spent' unless you hold a 'position of trust' such as a 'medical practitioner'.
The second requires that any criminal conviction must be disclosed to potential and existing employers if the employer is in the list of excepted employments and the Northern Ireland Health and Social Services are included in the list of excepted employments.
For more information on legislation in Northern Ireland, please refer to the guidance on NI Direct website
Access Northern Ireland from NI Direct.gov.uk
Legislation in Scotland
For more information on the legislation in Scotland, please refer to the guidance on Disclosure Scotland website
Basic Disclosure from Disclosure Scotland
Terms and conditions of your contract
Terms and Conditions (T and Cs) refer to professional expectations. They instruct you to 'maintain professional standards and obligations as set out from time to time by the General Medical Council (GMC) and to comply in particular with the GMC's guidance on 'Good Medical Practice' as amended or substituted from time to time.'
If you look at your contract of employment you may see the following, or similar, clause:
" …you are required to immediately notify your Clinical Manager if you are subject to an investigation by the police, are cautioned, or are convicted of a criminal offence whilst in the employment of the Trust. Failure to do so will constitute a disciplinary offence. Your Clinical Manager will then consider how relevant the caution is to your duties at work and decide if any action needs to be taken."
'Good Medical Practice' from the GMC
Guidance from the General medical Council (GMC) advises that:
- You must inform the GMC without delay if, anywhere in the world, you have accepted a caution, been charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence, or if another professional body has made a finding against your registration as a result of fitness to practice procedures.
- Registration with the General Medical Council or General Dental Council imposes on doctors and dentists a duty to provide a high standard of medical care for, and behave appropriately towards patients. Employers within Health and Social Care also have a duty to ensure that patients receive a high standard of medical care and ensure as far as possible the safety of patients. Employers therefore need to establish if you have been found guilty of a criminal offence, been bound over or cautioned or are currently the subject of proceedings which might lead to a conviction, an order binding you over or a caution, in the UK or any other country.
Read more about Good Medical Practice (2013)
We can offer you support
You have a legal and professional obligation to declare any and all criminal convictions to both the GMC and your employer simultaneously. Failure to do so may have dire consequences, as you risk being subject to employer disciplinary proceedings, and even losing your professional registration.
Contact a BMA adviser for help
Call us on 0300 123 1233 - From 8.30am to 6pm weekdays (not UK-wide bank holidays)
Email a BMA adviser
Web chat live with a BMA adviser