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GPs face 'double jeopardy' under GMC fitness to practice plans

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs face ‘double jeopardy' under controversial changes to the GMC's fitness to practice procedures.

The body wants to extend the grounds that may trigger a review of decisions, and create a time-limit to allow them to re-examine cases up to two years after they take place, or even longer in ‘exceptional circumstances'.

But a medical defence body claims the move will place undue scrutiny on GPs who have already been judged not to require a full fitness to practice hearing.

The plans, launched as part of a consultation into proposed changes to FTP Rules, would allow the GMC to review cases if there is reason to believe the decision not to proceed with a full investigation of a doctor is, or may be ‘ procedurally, legally or factually' flawed.

Currently, cases are only reviewed when ‘new evidence or information' comes to light, but the GMC wishes to broaden the scope to allow more opportunity to examine its own decisions.

Nick Clements, head of medical services at the Medical Protection Society, said the changes would place doctors under unfair pressure.

He said: ‘ It seems to be a case of double jeopardy for the doctor. The GMC appear to be arguing for Carte Blanche to say, ‘we want to be able to revisit our own decisions in case we got it wrong the first time'

Dr Clements was also unhappy at plans to introduce a time limit to the review process. He said: ‘The doctor thinks the matter is completely behind them, and two years or more later they could reopen the case. That to me does feel quite uncomfortable.'

The plans are one of several planned consultations on proposed changes in fitness to practise policy for 2009.

The GMC will publish the revised Rules later in the year.

Paul Philip, Director of Standards and Fitness to Practise at the GMC, said: ‘This open consultation forms part of our regular work in which we review and improve our procedures to ensure that they are fair, objective, transparent and free from unlawful discrimination, while maintaining their effectiveness and efficiency.

‘We would like to encourage organisations such as defence bodies, patient organisations and Royal Colleges to give us their views on this package of proposed changes.'

GPs face double jeopardy under the GMC's proposed changes to fitness to practice regulations

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