This site is intended for health professionals only

Number of fitness to practise complaints rises by nearly a fifth

The number of enquiries sent to the GMC about doctors’ fitness to practise rose by 18% in 2012 compared with the previous year, with GPs one of the groups most likely to face a complaint.

The annual fitness to practise statistics report from the GMC reveals that the number of complaints received by the GMC about doctors’ fitness to practise rose to 10,347 in 2012.

But two-thirds of these complaints were immediately closed by the regulator at triage, meaning they did not meet the threshold for an investigation.

GPs, psychiatrists, and surgeons were more likely to be the subject of a complaint than their peers, as were doctors who are male, from a black or minority ethnic background, those who qualified more than 20 years ago, or qualified outside the EU.

For most of these groups the report found a higher likelihood of a full investigation or a serious outcome to the complaint, but this was not true of GPs, psychiatrists, or those who qualified more than 20 years ago.

The report said: ‘The total number of enquiries we receive has continued to rise.

‘The proportion of enquiries closed at triage continues to increase, in 2012 we closed 60% of enquiries at triage, up from 56% in 2011. This continues the trend seen in previous years.’

The report added that cases promoted at triage were more likely to go into ‘stream one’, meaning they contain allegations that would suggest potential impairment of a doctor’s fitness to practise, than in 2011. There were 2,708 new stream one cases in 2012, an increase of 16% on 2011. The number of less serious stream two investigations fell by 9% to 1,400.

However, the report found that the actual number of fitness to practise hearings fell from 232 in 2011 to 208 in 2012, and the total number of doctors erased or suspended fell in 2012 to 55 and 64 respectively (from 93 and 65 in 2011).

The news comes as the GMC predicts rising numbers of fitness to practise cases in 2013, and has set aside an extra £4.7million compared to the 2013 budget.