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GMC to inform PCOs on all GP complaints

Medical defence experts have condemned new GMC regulations which will give primary care organisations more information about complaints against doctors.

Under the revamp of disclosure rules coming into force this week, the GMC will pass on details of complaints to employers – or PCOs in the case of GPs – even if no further investigation is needed.

It will also involve PCOs at the start of an investigation instead of when a charge is made.

The GMC argued the moves were necessary to find out about other complaints about a doctor that need to be taken into account and to help complainants.

But medical defence bodies branded the changes 'unfair on doctors'.

Dr Gerard Panting, policy and communications director at the Medical Protection Society, said it was unnecessary to disclose details of a complaint at such an early stage.

He also rejected the GMC's argument that involving an employer at an earlier stage helps the investigating team to see if any similar complaints had been made.

'It is incredibly unfair on a doctor when so often these complaints come to nothing,' he said.

'You would hope that if there were issues about a doctor that are serious enough for the investigation team to consider they would inform the GMC anyway.'

Dr Hugh Stewart, medico-legal adviser at the Medical Defence Union, said PCOs could 'draw negative inferences' from the fact the GMC had received a complaint that managers were unaware of.

Both the MPS and MDU also accused the GMC of not consulting properly.

The MDU said it was told the changes were coming into force before the consultation period had closed and before it had a chance to respond.

GMC member Dr Brian Keighley, a GP in Balfron, Fife, said he could understand doctors' concern, but the changes were part of the council's efforts to become more 'open and transparent'.

Meanwhile, the GMC has launched a further consultation on its fitness to practise procedures. One proposal is to open up Interim Order Panels to the public for the first time.

By Joe Lepper

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