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GPs more likely to face GMC fitness to practise probes

By Gareth Iacobucci

Cases against GPs are making up a rising proportion of GMC fitness to practise hearings, a Pulse investigation reveals.

Figures released by the GMC under the Freedom of Information Act also show complaints against GPs are increasing more quickly than for other doctors.

The findings have prompted concern that GPs may be suffering a backlash following the Harold Shipman case and the recent raft of anti-GP press.

The proportion of fitness to practise hearings involving GPs has risen sharply, from 21% in the second half of 2005 to 34% in 2007. In the first half of 2008, the proportion rose again to 37%.

Complaints against GPs is also on the increase - up 12% between 2005 and 2007, compared with just 2% among other doctors.

The figures come as the GMC revealed in its annual fitness to practise statistics that the overall number of hearings fell by more than 40% last year.

The GMC claimed the fall was down to improved communications with local NHS trusts, which meant a greater number of enquiries to the GMC are resolved locally.

But Pulse's figures suggest GPs are benefiting from these moves to a lesser degree than other doctors, and appeared to be more heavily investigated than other doctors.

Over the period, GPs accounted for 36% of total complaints but only 22% of cases that were closed after initial consideration.

Dr Krishna Korlipara, a GMC council member and a GP in Bolton, told Pulse: ‘It is worrying to see an increasing proportion of GPs being referred to fitness-to-practise panels. I can't really say the cause with any certainty.'

But Dr Korlipara said he believed anti-GP spin in the press might have affected the number of complaints. ‘All this spin against GPs may have been a contributory factor in instigating people to make a complaint if they're not satisfied,' he added.

A spokesperson for the GMC said it did not view the figures as statistically significant, but admitted ‘we will be monitoring trends closely'.

The GMC's figures show the number of doctors being struck off has risen slightly from 54 in 2006 to 60 in 2007, with International Medical Graduates continuing to make up an high proportion of this figure.

More than half of doctors struck off last year were International Medical Graduates, a slight increase from 50% in 2006.

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