A final year medical student in the process of applying for provisional registration had reached the point where she had to make a declaration of fitness to practise. She was upset to realise that she might have to declare two offences committed before she became a medical student.
She called the MDU advice line and explained that seven years ago she had been issued with a fixed penalty fine for speeding, which did not go to court. Shortly after this she had also accepted a caution for possession of a small quantity of cannabis. She had not informed her medical school about either incident.
When applying for GMC registration a medical student or doctor must make a declaration of fitness to practise. There are details of what must be declared on the GMC website, and importantly the declaration asks, 'Have you ever been issued with a fixed penalty notice…' Students must therefore consider offences which occurred before they became medical students.
The adviser went through the guidance with the student and reassured her that she was not required to declare the speeding offence, as road traffic offences where a fixed penalty notice has been accepted don't have to be declared (other fixed penalty notices must be declared). However, the adviser confirmed that the student was obliged to declare the caution for possession of cannabis even though it was from several years ago. Doctors are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and can be required to declare convictions indefinitely.
The adviser recommended that the student should submit her application for registration as soon as possible, as the processing of an application with declarations may take longer than usual. Doctors cannot undertake clinical work with patients until they are on the register with a licence to practise.
Whether the student should have declared these offences to her medical school would have depended on the requirements of that school and precisely what questions were asked by the school. It can sometimes be difficult to know what should be declared, but not declaring may put you at risk of a more serious allegation about probity.
This is a fictional case compiled from actual cases in the MDU files.