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Confidential helpline for doctors leads to 71 GMC investigations

Exclusive A whistleblowing helpline set up by the GMC in 2012 for doctors to raise anonymous concerns against fellow medics has already led to 71 full investigations, new figures obtained by Pulse reveal.

The helpline has received more than 1,000 calls since December 2012, leading to 152 fitness-to-practise complaints, the GMC told Pulse.

But GP leaders said it was ‘deeply worrying’ that doctors felt unable to raise concerns locally.

The helpline was launched to ‘enable doctors to seek advice on any issues they may be dealing with and to raise serious concerns about patient safety when they feel unable to do this at local level’.

The issue of doctors raising concerns has become a major one in the past few years following the damning Francis report into problems at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

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A statement from the GMC said: ‘In 2012, we launched a confidential helpline for doctors concerned about patient safety. The helpline is for doctors who want advice and support about our guidance or who feel they cannot raise a concern locally.’

‘Since December 2012 the helpline has received more than 1,000 calls. These calls have led to 152 fitness to practise complaints (about 191 doctors), including 71 full investigations.’

Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee, said: ‘It is deeply worrying and very sad that so many doctors feel unable to raise concerns through appropriate channels locally, and that a significant number of these appear to relate to very genuine concerns.’

However, Dr Kailash Chaand, deputy chair of the BMA Council and a retired GP in Lancashire, said that anything which helped generate and promote issues and discussion on patient safety and quality of care was a good thing.

He said: ‘I think this should be seen as something that can complement a doctor’s practice and that doctors should be able to raise concerns both locally and via the helpline if they feel they require further guidance.’

A spokeswomen for the Medical Defence Union told Pulse: ‘It can be particularly challenging for GPs, especially those working in a small practice, to raise concerns about colleagues locally and the helpline could help them to do so.’