A medical student contacted the MDU advice line as they’d been charged with a public disorder offence and had received a cannabis warning. The student explained they’d been out for the evening with friends, celebrating a birthday. The student had, unfortunately, become involved in an altercation when one of their friends accidentally spilt a drink on someone. The police had become involved and the student had been searched and found with a small amount of cannabis on them.
The student asked us whether they needed to declare this to anyone. They were in the final year of medical school and were about to fill in their GMC pre-registration forms and were concerned about the impact this would have on them starting their FY1 role.
We advised the student to review the medical school’s policy on disclosing criminal convictions and ensure they complied with this. Most medical schools will ask prospective students when they apply whether they have a criminal record or whether they have been charged with an offence, and it’s important that those applying for medical school answer this honestly.
If anything happens during medical school, the same applies. Students should inform the medical school as soon as possible. This may result in a Health and Conduct Committee meeting and may lead to a fitness to practise (FTP) hearing. It’s important for the student to engage with these processes, reflecting on what has happened and showing insight into any concerns.
Doctors must inform the GMC if they have accepted a caution from the police, been charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence
While the student may be able to remediate for any wrongdoing in terms of the criminal offence, it’s much more difficult to recover from allegations of dishonesty, where a student hasn’t disclosed information when they should have done.
It’s also important that students disclose information to the GMC during the pre-registration process. Doctors must inform the GMC if they have accepted a caution from the police, been charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence. The police have an obligation to inform the GMC – if a medical professional chose not to bring the matter to the GMC’s attention themselves, this is likely to give rise to allegations of dishonesty, which the GMC takes very seriously.
The student was advised to inform the relevant people at the medical school and deanery and to complete their pre-registration forms as early as possible. It’s likely that the GMC would want to investigate matters further and this could delay their pre-registration and ability to start their FY1 job as planned. Beginning the pre-registration process early would allow extra time with the hope that matters could be resolved before the start date of the FY1 intake.
The student was also advised that the cannabis warning should also be declared. This may also call into question their fitness to practise and may result in health assessments being carried out by the GMC. Again, we advised the student to cooperate with this.
Dr Kathryn Leask
Dr Kathryn Leask
BSc (Hons) MBChB (Hons) LLB MA MRCPCH FFFLM MRCPathME 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. Kathryn is currently a member of the faculty’s training and education subcommittee and a member of the Royal College of Pathologists (medical examiner).
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