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Independents' Day

GPs set for fewer GMC investigations on their clinical practice

Exclusive The GMC is trialling a new approach to the handling of complaints about doctors’ clinical practice, in a move aimed at cutting out unnecessary investigations.

The regulator said the pilot starting next month will look at clearing up more complaints about clinical practice before they escalate to a formal investigation to help ‘reduce the impact on doctors’.

It comes as Pulse revealed that three–quarters of complaints about GP prescribing over the past four years were thrown out.

But GP leaders were sceptical about how far the GMC’s action would alleviate concerns for GPs.

In a statement, the GMC told Pulse: ‘In July we are starting a pilot where we will make preliminary enquiries of single clinical incidents to make sure we only open a full investigation if the case raises wider fitness to practise concerns.

‘This will reduce the impact on doctors and ensure our investigations are focussed on those cases where we may need to act to protect future patients.’

But former GPC negotiator Dr Dean Marshall said the move ’will only reassure me if it actually makes a difference to their treatment of doctors who have complaints made against them’.

He added: ‘I am surprised to say the least that they are only now doing a pilot to look at something that is clearly a major area of concern for the doctors involved.’

The pilot comes after the GMC announced earlier this year that it was introducing some changes to how it conducts investigations of fitness-to-practise, after a series of damning reports revealed doctors were coming under unbearable pressure while under investigation.

And a recent Pulse investigation of GMC data, revealed through Freedom of Information requests, showed out of more than 1,000 complaints made about GPs’ prescribing over the past four years, nearly 800 – or three-quarters – were concluded without any action whatsoever.

A third of all complaints were concluded before being taken forward for full investigation, but more than half of those that were investigated still ended up being thrown out completely, and of the rest two out of every five were concluded without any formal action, just advice.

The GPC warned GPs were being put through the ‘incredible stress’ of investigations when ultimately they had no case to answer.

GMC processes under scrutiny

The GMC is in the process of changing how it conducts investigations to lessen the impact on doctors, following recommendations made by an independent review of its fitness-to-practise process.

Earlier this year the regulator announced that doctors with mental health problems will in future be spared from full GMC investigations ‘wherever possible’ to try to make its fitness-to-practise process more ‘sensitive to the needs of vulnerable doctors’.

Those changes came after Pulse published a series of articles about the pressure GMC procedures put on doctors, including a report that 28 doctors had died by suicide while under investigation and another 13 died while the regulator contemplated action.

Readers' comments (16)

  • Blablabla......all pigs are equal, some more than others!
    How does the GMC reassure the profession thta Dr's with foreign names get a fair deal!?
    In order to reduce bias do "investigators" receive "double blind" dossiers?

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  • Regretably been under scrutiny in past and 100% agree the process puts immense pressure on the Dr and I can well understand the deaths.

    I also only found out that I was even under additional scrutiny regionally by my peers after the event!

    In many cases vulnerable and certainly feels like being kicked when down!

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  • I ask my patients what they want after I have explaine everything. They mostly choose the 'just-in-case', option even when not offered. They dont care about statistics and the NHS budget and if anything (relevant or not) goes wrong then its your a$$ in the sling. We are basically tools in their hands unless we are willing to risk our registration.

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  • Well why the hell didn't they do this before? As a GP who had an initial investigation that ruined 6 months of my life before it was deservedly thrown out I now deserve a full apology. Waiting......

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  • Well rather than waiting for an apology, the only thing you are likely to get by waiting is an increase in fees as the number of doctors dwindle ever further.

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  • Apology-you must be a joking. All this action is to stop further dwindling of GP numbers. In the end will be empty words and no action- only lip service. Unlikely to stop people from leaving the sinking boat with GMC, CQC, Revalidation ,Appraisal etc. Equality is again an unknown term.

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  • Its unfair system, patient make complaint to get compensation and this system is handing over multiple tools to patients and their extended families and looking for lame excuse ranging from pood randling/ poor treatment to attitude even they them selves has absolutely no idea ethics and good respectable relationship is bilateral act and if for some reason you are coloured, Locuming, their expectation multiply by 100.
    I believe its not their fault, its regulators who encourges their unprecedented wishes from their Doctor.
    Yes I agree with other colleague, any complaint, good or bad, leaves extremely bad impact on the Doctor and their suicidal attitude/ tendancy is understandable--because they are part of both socities

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  • The greater enemy is NHS England Area Teams- a law unto themselves. They are accountable to no-one for their actions against GPs. usually managed in senior positions by incompetent ex-practice managers with axes to grind against GPs. BMA and GPC are incompetent. They have not ensured that we are protected. GPs should also only blame themselves, my experience tells me they 'watch their own backs' and keep their heads well below the parapet.

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  • If you possibly can - get out now . Things can only get worse unless there is increased investment and reduced work load. We all know this isn't going to happen so head for the life boats - abandon ship .

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