Accepting a police caution can have serious repercussions

It's important to be aware of the implications of a criminal conviction or caution for your future career, even if the incident seems trivial or happened a long time ago.

All doctors applying for GMC registration are asked to complete a declaration of fitness to practise, including any convictions or cautions obtained in the UK or overseas and any convictions in the UK that have been spent. Doctors have an ethical duty to inform the GMC without delay if, anywhere in the world, they accept a caution, or are charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence (Reporting criminal and regulatory proceedings within and outside the UK, 2013).

You should also be aware that the GMC may refuse provisional registration where a graduate's behaviour during their medical course was unprofessional, or if they have serious health issues that affect their fitness to practise. The GMC can prevent a graduate from provisionally registering if the behaviour is serious or persistent and if it calls into question the graduate's fitness to practise as a doctor.

'Unprofessional' behaviour can include a criminal conviction or caution, drug or alcohol misuse, and being aggressive, violent or threatening. Medical schools can investigate concerns and, if the concern is serious enough, refer the student to a fitness to practise panel, which can impose sanctions ranging from a formal warning to expulsion from the course.

Medical schools also have a responsibility to make sure the GMC is aware of any warnings or sanctions imposed on a student.

The scene

A student accepted a police caution for being drunk and disorderly. He contacted the MDU for advice and asked whether this would affect his application for provisional registration with the GMC.

MDU advice

Being accused of a criminal offence is obviously extremely distressing, not least because of the prospect of a formal court hearing and sanctions if convicted. For this reason, it may be tempting to accept a police caution, which promises to put an end to the whole legal process.

While a caution does not equate to a conviction, accepting a caution does amount to an admission of guilt. The GMC can take into account police cautions, as well as convictions, when considering a doctor's fitness to practise.

This page was correct at publication on 21/04/2015. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.