Disciplinary Action Against UK Health Professionals for Sexual Misconduct: A Matter of Reputational Damage or Public Safety?
Gallagher, Cathal T.
Ismail, Murwo M.
Thomas Gallagher, Cathal
The regulation of health care professionals in the United Kingdom (UK) falls under the authority of one of nine General Councils, each of which has a statutory duty to ensure the fitness to practice of a subdivision of these professionals. Among the matters that may call fitness to practice into question are deviations from published standards of behavior, which include the maintenance of appropriate sexual boundaries by practitioners. The aim of this article is to examine how the common fitness-to-practice process utilized by General Councils deals with registered health care professionals who have exceeded these boundaries.Deductive thematic analysis was carried out on cases involving academic misconduct among registrants of the General Medical Council, General Dental Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, and Nursing and Midwifery Council, using themes derived from each council’s standards for registrants and guidance for disciplinary panel members.While each of these four cases involved some form of sexually motivated misconduct, the facts in each case were significantly different; however, not only was the outcome the same, but the rationale was similar in each instance. While the protection of the health, safety and well-being of the public may be considered in cases involving sexual misconduct, the need to maintain public and professional confidence in their respective professions is sufficient grounds alone to end the careers of health professionals who engage in sexual misconduct.