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GMC publishes plans to revamp fitness to practise hearings



By Gareth Iacobucci

The GMC is to launch a consultation on plans to reform its fitness to practise procedures it says will provide a quicker, more proportionate, and less costly process for GPs.

The proposals will result in fewer public hearings of cases, in favour of resolving them consensually with doctors, and the possibility of a new power for the Council to suspend doctors who don’t comply with its investigations in fitness to practise procedures.

If accepted, the plans could see meetings conducted with GPs at the end of the investigation stage in some cases, to encourage them to accept an ‘appropriate outcome’. The GMC says this will negate the need to refer the case for public hearings, will reduce undue stress and anxiety on doctors.

The plans could see the presumption of erasure adopted for certain criminal convictions where the conduct which led to the conviction is incompatible with registration as a doctor. But another option on the table is to allow the GMC to suspend doctors who don’t comply with its investigations in fitness to practise procedures.

Explaining its decision to consult on the plans, the GMC said: ‘The requirement to attend a public hearing causes stress and anxiety for witnesses and doctors. They are also inefficient to run, and, even with careful case management, it takes several months to prepare for a case hearing.’

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘The current system tends to work on the basis that immediately you are into a confrontation. The doctor will get the legal advice and you can get sucked right forward into a hearing stage.

‘If we can protect patients and agree that outcome without going to a hearing, that has to be of benefit to the doctor, to us, and to the profession as a whole, in the sense that it saves the stress and anxiety.

‘Of course that saves the GMC and the profession money and that’s a good thing in itself. But the primary aim is to create a system that feels fairer, that feels less punitive.’

The consultation is due to be launched sometime in January.

GMC publishes plans to revamp fitness to practise hearings