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GMC sets aside additional £5m to cover increase in fitness to practise cases

The GMC has set aside an additional £4.9m this year to fund a predicted increase in the number of doctors whose fitness to practise is under investigation, Pulse has learnt.

In their annual budget for 2013, the GMC said they expect fitness to practise costs to increase by about £4.7m in 2013 compared with 2012. It also predicts an increase in costs for the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) of £0.2m.

They said this is largely down to a rise in the numbers of fitness to practise cases being referred to the GMC, stemming from rising numbers of complaints against doctors.

In the GMC’s latest council meeting minutes they said there was a 16% increase in the number of stream 1 cases - which would require the GMC to remove or restrict the doctor’s right to practise- between 2011 and 2012. A GMC spokesperson confirmed the organisation expected a similar rise this year.

The annual budget said: ‘We expect fitness to practise costs to increase by about £4.7m in 2013 compared to the 2012 budget’

They clarified that £2.3m would be spent on the recruiting additional staff, expert reports and health and performance assessments to deal with the anticipated increase in fitness to practise caseload this year.

An underspend in 2012 and efficiency savings mean the MPTS budget will increase by just £0.2m in 2013, but the GMC predicted costs for the service that runs fitness to practise and interim orders panel hearings would rise by £0.8m this year, due to an increase in fitness to practise complaints.

Niall Dickson chief executive of the GMC said: ‘We need to respond to the rising number of complaints about doctors - a pattern seen across healthcare.

‘We are also rolling out a number of reforms including piloting new processes in our fitness to practise work, such as meeting with doctors and complainants during an investigation to deliver a more effective system.

‘We believe these proposed changes could deliver a quicker and less stressful system for dealing with complaints which continues to put the safety of patients first.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GPC negotiator, said the rise in complaints did not mean more doctors are incompetent. He said: ‘There are complex reasons as to why more complaints are coming through. Some PCTs have been referring larger number of doctors to the GMC before they close down.’

‘We would hope the GMC is able to screen out inappropriate referrals so that the doctor can rest assured they are fit to practise.’

Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham

Put your questions on how to avoid a career-ending complaint to our panel of experts at Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers.

Pulse Live offers practical advice on key clinical and practice business topics, as well as an opportunity to debate the future of the profession, and a top range of speakers includes NICE chair designate Professor David Haslam, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the House of Commons health committee.

To find out more and book your place, please click here.