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1.  ‘You feel you've been bad, not ill’: Sick doctors’ experiences of interactions with the General Medical Council 
BMJ Open  2014;4(7):e005537.
Objective
To explore the views of sick doctors on their experiences with the General Medical Council (GMC) and their perception of the impact of GMC involvement on return to work.
Design
Qualitative study.
Setting
UK.
Participants
Doctors who had been away from work for at least 6 months with physical or mental health problems, drug or alcohol problems, GMC involvement or any combination of these, were eligible for inclusion into the study. Eligible doctors were recruited in conjunction with the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, the GMC and the Practitioner Health Programme. These organisations approached 77 doctors; 19 participated. Each doctor completed an in-depth semistructured interview. We used a constant comparison method to identify and agree on the coding of data and the identification of central themes.
Results
18 of the 19 participants had a mental health, addiction or substance misuse problem. 14 of the 19 had interacted with the GMC. 4 main themes were identified: perceptions of the GMC as a whole; perceptions of GMC processes; perceived health impacts and suggested improvements. Participants described the GMC processes they experienced as necessary, and some elements as supportive. However, many described contact with the GMC as daunting, confusing and anxiety provoking. Some were unclear about the role of the GMC and felt that GMC communication was unhelpful, particularly the language used in correspondence. Improvements suggested by participants included having separate pathways for doctors with purely health issues, less use of legalistic language, and a more personal approach with for example individualised undertakings or conditions.
Conclusions
While participants recognised the need for a regulator, the processes employed by the GMC and the communication style used were often distressing, confusing and perceived to have impacted negatively on their mental health and ability to return to work.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005537
PMCID: PMC4120406  PMID: 25034631
MENTAL HEALTH; QUALITATIVE RESEARCH; OCCUPATIONAL & INDUSTRIAL MEDICINE
2.  Shame! Self-stigmatisation as an obstacle to sick doctors returning to work: a qualitative study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001776.
Objective
To explore the views of sick doctors on the obstacles preventing them returning to work.
Design
Qualitative study.
Setting
Single participating centre recruiting doctors from all over the UK.
Participants
Doctors who had been away from work for at least 6 months with physical or mental health problems, drug or alcohol problems, General Medical Council involvement or any combination of these, were eligible. Eligible doctors were recruited in conjunction with the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, the General Medical Council and the Practitioner Health Programme. These organisations approached 77 doctors; 19 participated. Each doctor completed an in-depth semistructured interview. We used a constant comparison method to identify and agree on the coding of the data and the identification of a number of central themes.
Results
The doctors described that being away from work left them isolated and sad. Many experienced negative reactions from their family and some deliberately concealed their problems. Doctors described a lack of support from colleagues and feared a negative response when returning to work. Self-stigmatisation was central to the participants’ accounts; several described themselves as failures and appeared to have internalised the negative views of others.
Conclusions
Self-stigmatising views, which possibly emerge from the belief that ‘doctors are invincible’, represent a major obstacle to doctors returning to work. From medical school onwards cultural change is necessary to allow doctors to recognise their vulnerabilities so they can more easily generate strategies to manage if they become unwell.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001776
PMCID: PMC3488732  PMID: 23069770
Mental Health; Occupational & Industrial Medicine; Qualitative Research

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