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GPs are on the verge of winning their battle to change the GMC's heavyhanded approach to frivolous complaints.

The time taken to close such complaints should be slashed from six months to just two weeks under new fast-track procedures due to be approved next week.

The new approach would see any complaint that appears to fall outside the council's Good Medical Practice remit passed down to local NHS bodies for investigation.

It could save thousands of doctors every year from the anguish and stigma of a prolonged GMC investigation over a trivial complaint.

The move comes after Pulse revealed a litany of cases where GPs were left under a cloud of suspicion after patients bypassed local procedures to make vexatious complaints direct to the GMC.

The GPs complained of suffering the ignominy of 'fishing trips' through their employment history and the humiliation of having their names removed from the GMC's online medical register.

Paul Philip, GMC director of fitness to practise, said: 'For cases that don't look so serious, rather than contacting complainants and employers and awaiting their response, we would hope to say this doesn't look like it's for us and close the matter.'

Complaints relating to single allegations of rudeness and cases of police officers contesting their GP's view on eligibility for early retirement were examples of those that could be fast-tracked, he said.

He expected the move to affect around a third of the 5,000 annual complaints. If approved next week, the new process could be in place by late summer.

Dr Andrew Bargery, a GP in Barnstaple, Devon, who launched a campaign against the GMC after being investigated for a frivolous complaint over confidentiality, said the changes were 'long overdue'. He described the months it took him to clear his name as a time of 'lonely agony'.

Dr Robbie Coull, a locum GP who was recently reinstated to the GMC online register after a trivial complaint was rejected, said: 'If the new process is quicker and less

pejorative it will be a real victory for common sense.' His experience had scarred him. 'Any time I get any post from the GMC my pulse goes up and I start sweating.'

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden, who pressed the GMC for action last month, said many complaints against GPs were 'plain bloody vexatious' and should not get near the GMC. 'It's completely wrong, where there's no real danger to patients, that doctors' names should be removed from the public website.'

By Ian Cameron

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