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GMC recruits staff to tackle fitness-to-practise backlog

By Gareth Iacobucci

The GMC has been forced to take on more staff to deal with the huge surge in GPs being referred by GP medical directors to appear before fitness-to-practise panels.

The move comes after the council again missed its target to conclude or refer 90% of cases at investigation stage within six months.

The GMC concluded or referred 87% of cases at investigation stage within six months in May and June, and 88% in July, and has warned that ‘pressure on this target is likely to continue over the coming months'.

It recently emerged that the number of doctors appearing before fitness-to-practise panels increased by a third in the past year, from 204 in 2008 to 270 in 2009.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘We've expanded the number of hearings and the number of people handling investigations so that we can get ourselves back on track.'

‘The longer-term question is why is this happening? At the moment we don't have the evidence. Most additional cases are coming from the NHS – not from individuals.'

Mr Dickson added that the GMC would continue to look at the possibility of reforming its fitness-to-practise procedures to try and reduce the proportion of GPs who go through the hearing process.

He added: ‘It's partly about bearing down on cost but it's also because, frankly, when you reach the hearing stage everyone has lost out.'

'We have no desire or ambition to push doctors through some sort of public humiliation in hearings if we can reach some other way of dealing with it.'

The GMC again missed its target to conclude or refer 90% of cases at investigation stage within six months The GMC again missed its target to conclude or refer 90% of cases at investigation stage within six months

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