The General Medical Council (GMC) has urged doctors not to sign contracts or agreements preventing them from speaking out against poor healthcare provision.
The GMC said there have been instances where doctors have agreed to "gagging orders" that stop them from raising concerns about substandard care. However, new guidance given by the GMC has told doctors that these contracts go against their professional duty to place the interests of the patient first.
The GMC said some doctors had signed contracts that said they must not contact the regulator if they have concerns with patient care. However, the GMC has stated that such contracts risk jeopardising the doctor's career and the health of the patient.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said although it was true that doctors could feel isolated and marginalised if they were critical of care, support groups were in place to help them, including the GMC's new liaison service.
Mr Dickson branded the contracts totally unacceptable and urged doctors to consider the potential damage to their reputation while reminding them of their professional obligation to their patients.
Copyright Press Association 2012