It is the responsibility of doctors to be competent, practise medicine safely and maintain professional conduct in all settings. By meeting these responsibilities, doctors prove to the regulator, their peers and most importantly the public that they are ‘fit to practise’.
As future doctors, medical students are also expected to meet these standards of professional behaviour. Student fitness to practise relates to the behaviours of students but can also refer to the health of a student when poor health affects a student’s ability to study.
Fitness to practise procedures are required in medical schools to make sure that any students who may not be fit to practise as a doctor are identified. If they are deemed unfit to practise, then a remediation programme could be put in place for those students to help them improve. If they do not improve, they might not be allowed to graduate.
Each medical school is responsible for ensuring that its students have opportunities to learn about and to practise the behaviours expected of them. Fitness to practise processes can be very complex, with medical schools needing to decide how much support should be given to students, how many allowances should be made in helping a student overcome the problem, and at what point a student is fairly deemed as unfit to practise. Fitness to practise panels are put in place to make these decisions.
Fitness to Practise Leads
To ensure the quality of their processes, medical schools work collaboratively to discuss these issues. Each year Fitness to Practise Leads from medical schools are invited to a training conference hosted by the Medical Schools Council and General Medical Council. Fitness to Practise Leads also run further training events throughout the year.
A summary report from the latest fitness to practise conference can be found here.
The Medical Schools Council works closely with the General Medical Council to develop guidance for medical schools and students on fitness to practise. The latest versions of these guidance documents were published in July 2016 and comprise Achieving good medical practice, which discusses professional values for medical students, and Professional behaviour and fitness to practise, which provides guidance to medical schools on running fitness to practise processes.
To support this guidance, the Medical Schools Council and General Medical Council have produced a number of different resources to help medical schools implement the guidance and to help medical students understand what it means to them. These include;
- Case studies – worked examples of common professionalism dilemmas for medical students
- Thought pieces – further explanations of issues within the guidance such as representation at hearings
- Myths and questions – myth busters and responses to frequently asked questions
- Teaching resources – materials developed by medical students