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GPs who make one-off errors less likely to face GMC investigation under new plans

The GMC is to roll out changes to how it handles one-off mistakes by GPs and other doctors, after a pilot found full investigations were not needed in 65% of cases.

The regulator said it was able to close 202 of 309 cases that would normally have led to full investigations during the two-year pilot.

By making additional enquiries early on in the process, the GMC aims to cut unnecessary investigations that can cause ‘additional stress’ to doctors who have never had a complaint made about them before.

The changes it is bringing in involve gathering information - such as medical records and input from independent experts - soon after a complaint or referral is made.

It will also consider advice from doctors’ responsible officers and the doctors themselves in deciding which cases to pursue.

The 309 cases in the two-year pilot were limited to incidents where doctors made one-off errors - and were all cases that would previously have led to full investigations.

Speaking about the results of the pilot, Charlie Massey, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘Protecting patients is our priority. But opening full investigations unless absolutely necessary is not in the interests of patients or doctors, and causes additional stress and delay.

‘We’ve found that getting more information quickly in certain cases clarifies if there is any ongoing risk to patients, and so whether we need to take action.’

The GMC started cracking down on unnecessary investigations in 2014 when it introduced a provisional enquiry system for many complaints, allowing for more initial questions to be made before launching a full investigation.

The initial enquiry, the GMC said, takes about two months, compared with six months for a full investigation.

Since the new system has been in place, 951 cases have been closed following a provisional enquiry, according to the GMC’s 2018 State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK report.

By 2017, 40% of complaints – not including those that were closed or referred back to employer - were subject to provisional enquiries. Of those, 68% have not required a full investigation.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, welcomed the GMC’s new approach to handling complaints made about doctors for the first time, calling it a ‘significant step…towards a fairer system of regulation’.

He said: ‘Being subject to a fitness-to-practise complaint can be an extremely serious and distressing experience for doctors, not least as investigations are all too often delayed and drawn out, even when they result in no further action being taken. To serve the public effectively, the GMC must ensure that the investigations which it rightly conducts are fair and efficient and do not cause unnecessary stress for doctors.’

He added: ‘The GMC’s recent pilot clearly shows that complaints against doctors can be dealt with promptly and effectively without requiring burdensome processes.

‘The decision to implement this approach as common practice is a significant step forward towards a fairer, more proportionate system of regulation, so we welcome today’s announcement.’

Readers' comments (13)

  • If by this we effectively mean the Performance Advisory Group its not much better from a stressor point, resulted in my partner walking!

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  • It does seem curious that GMC finds enquiring into the case often leads to an early conclusion that there is nothing miuch wrong!

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  • Glad to see the sanity is at last starting to percolate into the GMC's handling of cases. It is important for everyone in healthcare constantly to recognise that we are all human, and, given enough time, will all make mistakes. Doctors' like everyone else, therefore need to be treated as fallible humans rather than perfect automatons. I sincerely welcome the GMC's new approach.

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  • Sorry I might have missed it- Was anything mentioned about repercussions for making false allegations and compliants, or is it as usual they get off scot free to make another one? GMCs half hearted attempt at regaining the professions trust and credibility is fooling no one.

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  • now Why didn’t they think of that before?

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  • Too little, too late.
    We need and deserve a proper registration system that is publicly funded and a separate disciplinary system based in the existing civil and criminal court system.

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  • Do you believe anything GMC says? I heard the opposite, they are going to look in even more detail ruining even more lives.

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  • Well well well. The GMC finally and very belatedly realising it’s previous grotesque errors of judgement.
    But have those whose lives were so upset received apologies? Have people resigned?
    This organisation still has a long way to go to deservedly receive the trust of the profession but this has to be grudgingly accepted as a first faltering step.

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  • You would think it was rocket science. Dumb fxxxx

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  • Still do not trust them.There needs to be a judicial review of regulation of the medical profession as this lot have lot our total confidence.As a collective we have long long memories as we on average(as long as we don't make one of these all to easy mistakes in this failing system)tend to be around a lot longer than these career prawn sandwich and powerpoint duffers.When they mess up they just go on to another post no consequences for mistakes on their part.The Dr BG case will not go away for along time and the consequences are only just starting to effect us.Collapse of the NHS and the profession continue.

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