GMC plans to cut some hearings

A NEW system that could cut the number of fitness to practise hearings is to be piloted by the General Medical Council.

The regulator is launching two pilot schemes to trial a new way of investigating complaints against doctors.

The first will see GMC representatives meeting with doctors who have been subject to an investigation to discuss placing sanctions on their registration. If the doctor agrees to the outcome of the investigation and the proposed sanction, a hearing before a fitness to practise panel would not be needed.

In cases where there is a dispute between the GMC and the doctor about the outcome of the investigation, or where the doctor does not accept the proposed sanction, the matter would be referred to a public hearing. Any action taken would still be published on the GMC’s website and noted in the doctor’s record in the online medical register.

At this stage, the GMC said the pilots would not involve more serious cases where the doctor might face suspension or erasure from the register as this would require a change in the law.

The pilot will run for up to nine months and will be independently evaluated. It is expected to involve at least 80 meetings with doctors.

The second pilot involves GMC representatives meeting with members of the public who have raised a concern about a doctor. The aim of the meetings will be to ensure the GMC fully explains the investigation process and that staff fully understand the issues behind the complaint. A further meeting will be held once the case is closed in order to explain the outcome.

The pilot will involve complainants from the Greater London and North West regions of England and will also be independently evaluated.

The ideas for the pilots were part of a public consultation last year when the GMC said most people supported the proposals.

GMC chief executive 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.”