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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)

  • Right - this should save costs too, so how much is my annual retention fee being reduced by?

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  • GPs set for fewer GMC investigations on their clinical practice

    I wonder how this will affect the thoroughly disgraceful and as yet resolved issue of why BME doctors in the uk are far more likely to face gmc investigation and FTP panels, far more likely to face censure and far more likely in the event of complaints to be struck off!!

    This is an issue that despite decades of documented evidence has yet to find an established cause. All the obfuscation I am sure is down to the fact that a thorough investigation is being conducted that will once and for all lay this national disgrace to rest.

    It's 2016 pulse for goodness sakes "black GPs lives matter"

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  • Took Early Retirement

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  • The only thing that has changed, is the GMC will now not investigate the problem but pass it on to the local area NHS team to investigate. let them know if there are any concerns so they can then shaft the doctor. So the number of investigations done by the gmc will go down, the number of investigations done against doctors by anyone else (NHSE QCQ etc) will go up exponentially.

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  • And guess what in these area teams there are GP who complicit with the bullying and grossly unfair and biased 'investigations' that take place against GPs. These GPs should be ashamed of themselves. I am also aware that a lot of them perform far worse in their own practice than most of the GPs they are complicit in bringing down 'at any cost'! We (GPs) stab ourselves in the back! If we had any BALLS we as a group would have supported the juniors and been out striking with them. Isn't it obvious the ploy of Hunt is divide and conquer! He is winning! we are allowing this to happen. BMA is ineffective. Real radical leadership is required. Did you all know that if a Dr is suspended by the GMC we are not entitled to any reimbursement of lost salary during the period of suspension!!! despite this suspension usually being deemed a 'neutral act'! How has this been allowed to happen by the BMA! We are therefore Guilty until proven innocent! We are left to fight battles individually and we will never beat this unjust system that way.

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  • Apologies to all who may be offended by my poor attempt at a joke regarding Mr Hunt @1.33pm

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