Code of Conduct

This document is intended to provide a clear set of expectations as to how RCP members, fellows and other healthcare professionals conduct themselves when working for or representing the RCP.

The standards identified should be seen as an adjunct to guidance provided by the GMC and published in documents such as Good medical practice,[1] Leadership and management for all doctors[2] and Doctors’ use of social media,[3] in addition to the Nolan principles of public life.[4]  The document does not diminish an individual’s duty to act in accordance with their employing organisation’s requirements and their contract of employment.

The broader topic of medical professionalism is currently being addressed by the RCP in a separate publication. The RCP has also undertaken work on values and engagement relating to RCP staff and those principles align with the standards listed below.

The final version of this document will be considered in the review of bye-laws that is currently in progress and may result in a change to Bye-law 168 and/or resolution.

We promise to seek to provide the highest standards of patient care at all times, working with others to treat patients in the manner in which we would wish to be treated ourselves, and to involve patients, their families and carers in decisions about their care

RCP500 Charter

Standards

The following standards apply to all members, fellows and other healthcare professionals when representing the RCP, working on the RCP’s behalf or attending an RCP event (business or social, in any location).

The standards relate to all forms of communication including written, verbal, non-verbal, electronic and social media, especially where the professional concerned could be deemed to be representing  the RCP or if there are potential implications for the RCP’s reputation.

Members, fellows and other healthcare professionals have collective responsibility to maintain these standards. They should be aware that if they fail to meet them, after full ascertainment of the circumstances, steps may be taken to address their behaviour and appropriate sanctions applied.

RCP500 Code of Conduct

  1. Treat others with respect and consideration
  2. Recognise and value diversity and individual differences
  3. Behave with integrity, honesty, kindness and patience
  4. Be a role model for professional behaviours
  5. Undertake our work in good conscience and to the best of our ability
  6. Foster collaborative and supportive working with others
  7. Promote trust and a just culture
  8. Hold ourselves and others accountable for professional and personal behaviours
  9. Take responsibility for the stewardship of our position of authority, mindful of our impact on others
  10. Respect the RCP’s standards and rules and be a guardian of its reputation. 

The Code of Conduct is to be included in:

  • fellowship proposal criteria
  • new member and fellow ceremonies
  • Bye-law 168/resolutions amendment.

How concerns about conduct may be escalated

Escalation of concerns needs to be without fear of reprisal and in accordance with the RCP’s whistleblowing policy. The RCP has a leaflet outlining all staff’s rights and responsibilities, and this may assist, in addition to the new code of conduct, in the identification and reporting of substandard behaviour.[5]

When concerns are registered, a clear process must  be followed.  

The RCP’s ability to set rules concerning disciplinary issues derives from its Bye-law 168 and there is further clarification of the process in the document, Procedure for the conduct and discipline of fellows and members (April 2014). This procedure ‘has been drawn up to describe the process that will be followed if any member of the RCP breaks its rules or brings it into disrepute’ and will be used ‘when a member’s behaviour or conduct is regarded as unacceptable to a degree that makes informal measures inappropriate’  (p 1). One of the definitions of a breach of discipline is acting ‘in a dishonourable or unprofessional manner’ (p 3). The document clarifies that the matter should be referred to the registrar, who will investigate the circumstances; in doing so, the registrar may call upon the censors or other fellows as appropriate. 

If the matter cannot be resolved informally, or the matter is of sufficient gravity, the registrar may need to initiate a disciplinary investigation into the member’s conduct.  Stage two (disciplinary panel) involves referral to the senior censor and consultation with the censors regarding appointment of a panel; stage three (appeals panel) is overseen by the president and will involve councillors who are representative of the fellowship as a whole.

NB: The RCP’s Disciplinary and capability policy and procedure (September 2011) outlines the disciplinary procedures related to matters of conduct and capability for all members of staff. 

There are various stages to the process involving informal and formal attempts to resolve matters, including written warnings and disciplinary hearings. Cases involving gross misconduct will usually lead to summary dismissal.

The type of behaviours described in these disciplinary policies particularly reference gross misconduct and are rarely used.

The RCP500 Code of Conduct provides the standards of conduct expected of its members and fellows and those working on behalf of, or representing, the RCP.  Breaching these standards may not amount to gross misconduct but may still result in poor and/or inappropriate behaviours that others should not be expected to tolerate.

Gross misconduct should be escalated as outlined in the existing RCP disciplinary policies. 

Escalation of poor and/or inappropriate behaviours may follow a number of different routes.  This may be through the line manager, to an executive director, to a senior officer, to a censor, and/or through existing disciplinary policies, via HR or a member of the Employees’ Forum.

Investigation

Local resolution may be possible, for example, for one-off unexpected poor conduct where a genuine apology has been offered and accepted. 
However, where this is not possible, and/or where conduct is sufficiently poor or inappropriate and/or where there is a pattern of such conduct, this should be escalated to the registrar for investigation.

The registrar will undertake any investigation at his/her discretion and, using balanced judgement, will make a decision of any appropriate sanction. The registrar may decide to escalate for further investigation to  the censors.

Where a concern has been raised regarding a senior officer, investigation should involve the CEO, censors and an external party. 

All decisions will be agreed by the registrar, president and censors. 

A record will be kept of the decision and held within the Membership Support and Global Engagement Department (MSGE). 

References

  1. General Medical Council. Good medical practice. London: GMC, 2013.
  2. General Medical Council. Leadership and management for all doctors. London: GMC, 2012. 
  3. General Medical Council. Doctors’ use of social media. London: GMC, 2013. 
  4. See RCP document: Nolan principles of public life: Guidance to trustees and holders of RCP positions.
  5. RCP leaflet: Setting the highest standards: Our values, and your rights and responsibilities as employees.