Referrals by the GMC to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) have increased by 40%, despite ‘no significant increase’ in complaints made to the GMC over the past year.
The number of referrals to tribunals from case examiner decisions in 2018 was 280, up from 200 the year before.
The GMC said that thresholds for referrals had not changed and that this increase was likely due to a normal fluctuation in cases.
The total number of fitness-to-practise enquiries increased by 0.3% in 2018 with 8,573 enquiries compared to 8,546 in 2017.
Anthony Omo, general counsel and director of fitness to practise at the GMC, said: ‘Over the course of 2019 there has been no significant increase in complaints or referrals to the GMC.
‘However, we have seen an increase in the number of full investigations compared to the same period last year. We have robust investigation processes and closely monitor all cases which come to us to ensure we progress them as quickly as possible.’
In the GMC’s September council meeting, the council noted that: ‘There were increased volumes of caseloads within fitness to practise with a consequent increase in the number of referrals to the MPTS.
‘The increase in referrals reflected an increase in the most serious referrals from employers, as there had also been a drop in the number of less serious cases, that is those which result in doctors being issued with advice or warnings.’
The GMC also said it had promoted 7% more enquiries to full investigation at initial triage in 2018 (1,402) than the year before (1,306), which was likely due to an uplift in cases raising serious concerns.
A spokesperson for the GMC noted that it had improved its lower-level filtering to make sure investigations are only carried out in serious cases.
Since this system of provisional enquiries was introduced in 2014, just under 30% of these have proceeded to full investigations.
A BMA spokesperson said: ‘Given the profound and distressing effect that fitness-to-practise investigations have on doctors, and the important role this process plays in protecting patients, it is crucial that case examiner referrals are only made when cases meet the correct criteria and are fully justified.’