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The waiting game

GMC to ‘limit impact’ of FTP procedures while NHS England ‘pauses’ complaints

Exclusive The GMC will only make fitness-to-practise information requests to doctors during the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis if there is 'an immediate patient safety concern'.

The GMC told Pulse this comes as it appreciates the pressure doctors are currently under and therefore wants to 'limit the impact' of complaints and investigations.

Meanwhile, NHS England said it will be supporting a 'system-wide pause' on the NHS complaints process, including the suspension of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman complaints process for at least three months.

The GMC will continue its casework during the crisis but will only consider any new referrals or complaints, and any new information on existing cases, in order to determine whether there are any immediate public safety concerns.

It will also continue work on interim order applications and review hearings; substantive order review hearings; and relevant court interim order extension applications.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) has postponed most tribunal hearings. The GMC said this was in a bid to ensure the safety of all involved and stem the potential spread of infection.

But it added that the MPTS would continue to review existing sanctions and consider new interim restrictions where necessary to protect patients or public confidence.

Where hearings do take place, they will be via video conference or considered by a 'legally qualified chair'.

Anthony Omo, general counsel and director of FTP for the GMC, said: ‘We appreciate the pressure on doctors and the UK’s health services and want to limit the impact of complaints and investigations.

‘We’re continuing to assess and respond to concerns received, but we are changing how we seek information from employers and doctors. We will only make a request if it involves an immediate patient safety concern. This means that we may not be able to progress some cases as efficiently as we would normally, or at all, for the time being.

‘If this happens, we’ll communicate with those involved and support them as best we can. Any doctor currently involved in a fitness to practise case can get in touch with us about their individual case.'

NHS England said in a bulletin to practices (28 March): 'Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic we are supporting a system wide “pause” of the NHS complaints process which will allow all health care providers in all sectors to concentrate their efforts on the front-line duties and responsiveness to Covid-19.

'The initial “pause” period is recommended to be for three months with immediate effect. All health care providers can opt to operate as usual regarding the management of complaints if they wish to do so and this “pause” is not being enforced.

'Please note that as of 26 March 2020, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has stopped accepting new NHS complaints and has stopped work on open cases.'

The GMC has already moved to reassure doctors that they will take the 'challenging circumstances' into account when investigating coronavirus-related complaints.

It has also announced that it will defer revalidation for GPs to ‘free up vital time’ on the coronavirus ‘frontline’. 

GMC chair Dame Clare Marx wrote in a comment piece for Pulse last week that the GMC 'understand[s] the burden [GPs] are shouldering'.

Readers' comments (9)

  • About time to stop this complains and 'I know my rights' culture and shut those arm chair know-it-all's up and enable frontline staff to get on with their job. Long may this continue...

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  • The pressure from the profession must have been really intense following the Bawa-Garba case so this must be a very welcome face saving exercise for the regulators. Smoke em while you got em boys.

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  • You know every institute that is currently 'backing off' has self-defined their uselessness, bureaucracy and bullying of the profession. Actions speak louder than words.

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  • This situation should be being used by BMA to sort out the regulatory landscape and strengthen the hand of doctors in getting fair pay/ pensions. Afterwards is toooooooo late.

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  • The current situation has highlighted how these useless organizations are not needed and that doctors should be managing themselves instead of some non medic justifying his job. The BMA needs to sort this. Apologize GMC to Dr Bawa Garba for pretending the conditions of practice are ideal for the pretend ideal outcomes.
    The patients can always sue us without these middlemen if anything goes wrong.
    The inadequate PPEs for doctors causes more Covid 19 spread by staff but are the GMC or CQC doing anything to "protect" patients and support doctors?

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  • Apparently supermarket workers are getting a 15% bonus for working in these tough conditions ( which is great) but front line health professionals just getting Corona virus as thanks and an 8pm clap

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  • Cobblers

    The cavalry isn't coming 6:40pm.

    Getting the clap at 8pm was pretty normal when I was in hospital medicine.


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  • pauses complaints ? i think you mean stores them up while they need our services, then resurrect them at a later date ! typical government "more jam tomrrow" tactic. do not trust them. they will stab you in the back when all this is over !

    (just becase i'm paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get me)

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  • The GMC will need to be closed after this is over, it's their fault things have become so bad. The obsession with micromanaging front line staff and blaming them for everything that goes wrong in an under-resourced system has done nothing but harm. We are drowning in regulation but cannot even provide basic PPE for staff at risk. This must stop. Instead we need a simple list of who people are and what they do. A small number of doctors will always fall foul of the law and some will do wrong but we have courts to deal with this. Doctors must be restored to making clinical decisions about their patients. The UK almost uniquely destroyed its collegiate medical culture. We need to start listening to experts again.

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