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BMA slams ‘flawed’ plans to broaden scope of fitness to practise hearings

The BMA has rejected plans to widen the scope of fitness to practise hearings, saying the proposals would place a ‘huge strain' on doctors and would lead to ‘flawed' judgements from the GMC.

The plans to remove the current five-year limit on investigating complaints and reduce the evidence threshold for complaints, were heavily criticised in a strongly worded BMA response to a consultation on the proposals.

The response – seen by Pulse – says plans, developed by the Law Commission for all UK health departments, would undermine faith in the GMC and its relationship with doctors.

It goes on to say the proposals to remove the requirement for a complaint, and allow regulators to look at a broader range of evidence would be detrimental for doctors.

It says: ‘There must be an element of responsibility taken by the complainant through registering their concerns formally.

‘Furthermore it would be a huge commitment for the regulators to investigate all allegations, not to mention a huge strain on professionals whose conduct has been brought into question.'

Pulse revealed in March that the Law Commission proposals would mean GPs would be investigated on events from many years ago, and potentially for the same incident twice.

The BMA said the removal of the five-year limit on investigating complaints was ‘unfair' and would lead to ‘flawed judgements'.

It says: ‘For regulators to be able to investigate a complaint so long after the event that the complained-against will have no recall of, or access to the records of, a particular case. 

Moreover, the accuracy of testimony of key witnesses, including the complainant, may lessen over a period of time.'

Co-author of the response, Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy GPC chair, told Pulse: ‘We want to avoid fishing expeditions where an excuse is used to look for elements to justify an investigation, rather than focusing on the allegation itself.'

Dr Vautrey said: `It starts to become unfair if there is the possibility of delving back many years. People change and the standards that doctors work to change as well.'

Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said the distress caused by unfounded allegations was `absolutely horrendous' and the proposals were likely to worsen the current situation where more doctors were being referred to the GMC in spite of rising standards of medical practice.

He said: ‘If you are to have a change to the law, you need to make sure that you protect patients, but also protect doctors who aren't guilty of anything inappropriate.'