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GMC looks at cutting some public hearings

GMC to trial new system to investigate complaints against doctors

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The General Medical Council is to try out an improved system of investigating complaints against doctors. It says that its proposals to reduce the number of hearings before a fitness to practise panel would make the whole procedure faster – and less stressful for doctors – without jeopardising patient safety.

Two pilot schemes are beginning this month, as part of the GMC’s reforms of fitness to practise, GMC chief executive Niall Dickson (pictured) announced this morning.

The first pilot will examine whether or not meeting with a doctor at the end of an investigation could safely avoid the need for a hearing before a fitness to practise panel, if the doctor concerned agrees both with the outcome of the investigation and with the sanctions that are proposed to be placed on his or her registration. The decisions made, and any actions taken, would be published on the GMC website and in the online medical register.

If the investigated doctor disagreed with the investigation’s outcome, or with the proposed sanction, then their case would be referred to a public hearing. Hearings would always be required for cases in which the doctor faces serious allegations that could potentially result in suspension or removal from the register.

This pilot will be independently evaluated when it ends in about 9 months’ time, after at least 80 meetings with doctors.

The second pilot will test the idea of the GMC meeting with people who have expressed concerns about a doctor, in which the Council will explain the investigation process and ensure that its staff fully understand the issues involved in the complaint. The complainant will then be invited to a meeting at the end of the investigation to explain its outcome.

Niall Dickson said: “We believe these proposed changes could deliver a quicker and less stressful system for dealing with complaints which continues to put patient safety first.

“We want to reduce the number of hearings and the associated stress on patients and doctors alike. But there will be no cosy deals – the sanctions we propose must protect patients and it is important too that we continue to be open about what we are doing and publish any action we take against a doctor.

“And for those doctors who do not accept our proposed sanction or do not accept our view of the facts, their cases will still be referred for a public hearing.”

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