Dr Kathryn Leask
A second year medical student faces criticism and potential disciplinary action after signing an attendance register on behalf of a friend.
A second year medical student called the MDU for advice and support in relation to a potential fitness to practise hearing, following allegations that he had inappropriately signed an attendance register for a friend.
The student explained that it had been common practice for a group of his friends and fellow students to sign the attendance register on behalf of each other for various tutorials and lectures. It had been noted by a number of the tutors that students had been signed in despite not being present at the session. This student's handwriting had been identified as one of those who had been signing in for friends, giving the impression that they had attended.
The university was investigating the matter and had sought his comments. He had been advised by his educational supervisor that this may lead to an FTP panel hearing and would need to be declared to the GMC when the student came to apply for provisional registration. It could therefore have an impact on his graduation and foundation programme employment.
The MDU adviser explained that this type of activity was taken very seriously by medical schools and the GMC, as it raised concerns about a student's probity. As doctors are in a profession where honesty and trust is of utmost importance, this behaviour could be seen to bring the profession into disrepute.
The MDU adviser drew the student's attention to guidance produced by the GMC and Medical Schools Council, which emphasises the importance of honesty and integrity and specifically states: 'Don’t say you have attended teaching sessions if you haven't. And don't ask another student to sign in for you'.
The MDU adviser explained that although the student was being criticised for signing the form, rather than having someone sign on his behalf, this would still be taken seriously and would raise concerns about his probity, and that of his student colleagues.
The MDU adviser recommended that the student review the guidance and write a reflective statement on why his behaviour and that of his colleagues had not been appropriate, making reference to the guidance and the GMC's Good medical practice which doctors are expected to follow, particularly in relation to its guidance on not providing false or misleading information when signing or writing documents.
The MDU adviser assisted the student in preparing his comments for the university. The student admitted to having signed friends in as present on their behalf and having been signed in by others when he did not attend. He sincerely apologised for his behaviour and carefully reflected on his actions, explaining why this had not been appropriate and reassuring the university that this would not happen again.
As the student had an otherwise unblemished academic record and had not had any concerns raised previously about his behaviour or conduct, the university accepted his admission and apology and were impressed by the insight that he had shown.
The student received a warning, which was to remain on his student record for one year, but the matter did not progress to an FTP hearing. The student was advised that he would, however, have to inform the GMC of the warning when he applied for his provisional registration, and he was advised to review the GMC and MSC guidance in relation to being open and honest about the incident.
The student was very relieved that the matter had been closed with a warning and felt that he had learnt a lot from the experience, particularly as he was aware of another student in their final year who had faced similar allegations, but had not shown any remorse or insight. He was aware that this student had faced an FTP hearing and this had delayed his graduation, meaning he was unable to start his first foundation post at the same time as his peers.
The MDU adviser reminded the student that as he was joining a trusted profession, the standards of behaviour required of him were higher than that of students on other courses. It was therefore important that his conduct was not called into question again and, as he still had over three years of his medical course left, he had plenty of opportunity to reassure the medical school and the GMC of his professionalism and commitment to being a doctor.
Dr Kathryn Leask
BSc (Hons) MBChB (Hons) LLB MA MRCPCH FFFLM DMedEth
Kathryn has been a medico-legal adviser with the MDU since 2007 and is a team leader, trainer and mentor in the medical advisory department. Before joining the MDU, she worked in paediatrics gaining her MRCPCH in 2002 and did her specialty training in clinical genetics. She has an MA in Health Care Ethics and Law, a Bachelor of Law and a Professional Doctorate in Medical Ethics. She is also a fellow of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine and has previously been an examiner and Deputy Chief Examiner for the faculty exam. Kathryn is currently a member of the faculty's Training and Education Subcommittee.
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