Several groups have criticised the GMC’s proposed changes to its Good Medical Practice (GMP) guide, saying they could ‘open the floodgates’ to FTP investigations.
The consultation closes today (20 July), and a number of groups have submitted critical responses.
The suggested amendments include removing the caveat that it would only launch a fitness-to-practise (FTP) investigation when there was ‘serious or persistent failure’ to follow GMP.
Under the revised rules, the GMC explained it will act ‘where there is a risk to patients or public confidence in medical professionals, or where it is necessary to maintain professional standards.’
In the Medical Protection Society’s (MPS) official statement, medical director Dr Rob Hendry said the change to the threshold statement was a ‘concern’ as it could ‘open the floodgates to [FTP] cases’.
He said: ‘We understand that in proposing this change, the GMC is trying to explain more comprehensively when it might take action to protect the public, however, we believe the previous statement is clearer in setting expectations to doctors, patients and the public the level of concerns that are appropriate to be referred to the GMC.
‘The new proposed statement is not sufficient in setting out the seriousness of concerns that the GMC is focused on and may open the floodgates to cases that fall well short of the threshold for action.’
He added that ‘trust in the regulator is currently on a knife edge’.
The MPS highlighted that between 2016 and 2020, the GMC received an average of 8,600 enquiries a year in relation to a doctor’s fitness to practise but less than 2% of these led to erasure or suspension each year.
Chair of grassroots organisation GP Survival Dr John Hughes told Pulse: ‘GP Survival is concerned about the wording highlighted by MPS as it appears to make the threshold for referral looser and more vague, which is contrary to the pious words from GMC about encouraging local resolution of issues and reserving referral for only genuinely serious breaches of professionalism or patient safety.
‘It is well recognised that GMC referral and investigation are harmful processes for doctors, not just stressful [but] resulting in deterioration of mental and physical health, reducing ability to focus on patient care and good practice, and in too many cases resulting in suicide.’
Meanwhile, Medical Defence Union (MDU) director of medical services Dr Caroline Fryar said: ‘We are concerned that some sections in the proposed new guidance read as a vision of perfection and do not reflect the realities of doctors’ daily working lives. We worry the guidance will have unintended consequences such as increasing the number of investigations.’
Dr Fryar concluded: ‘It is important to have maximum clarity from the GMC without creating sweeping and burdensome duties on doctors.’
New data from last month revealed that the GMC launched another 23 appeals against its tribunal’s rulings since the Government committed to disallowing GMC appeals in June 2018.
The GMC also last month said that findings against GP Dr Manjula Arora should not stand and that the dishonesty test was ‘incorrectly’ applied in her case, effectively overturning the ruling to suspend her for a month over ‘dishonesty’ about a laptop.
And a report by the regulator has shown that five doctors died by suicide while under GMC investigation between 2018 and 2020.