Provisional enquiries (PE) are designed to avoid unnecessary GMC investigation.
The GMC can only investigate concerns where the facts, if proven, would suggest impairment of the doctor's fitness to practise.
Many enquiries can be closed immediately at triage because they do not question fitness to practise. Others can be sent to the doctor's responsible officer because they would not raise a question of fitness to practise unless they were part of a pattern (for example, an isolated complaint about quality of treatment at the lower end of the spectrum).
But sometimes it's not clear at the outset whether fitness to practise (FTP) is in question, and before provisional enquiries were introduced, these cases all entered the full investigation process.
What is a provisional enquiry?
A provisional enquiry is a limited enquiry into cases that meet a set of criteria designed to recognise those that are unlikely to meet the GMC's threshold for impairment of FTP, even if the allegations were proven.
When cases meet these criteria they become provisional enquiries, and the GMC will make its enquiries within a short timescale.
The GMC obtains relevant information - which may include obtaining medical records/local investigation reports or seeking a clinical view before deciding whether it understands the seriousness of the concerns. It can then decide whether to close the case or send it through to the FTP investigation procedure.
If during provisional enquiry the GMC is satisfied that there is no concern about risk to patients and, where appropriate, a doctor has taken steps to avoid repetition of any mistake, a full GMC investigation is not usually needed.
It may be reassuring to know that the GMC closes approximately 80% of concerns without the need for investigation.
What to do if your case is being dealt with as a provisional enquiry
- Call the MDU. We're here to provide advice and support. We'll be happy to discuss your individual circumstances and concerns and will ask you to send in the details so we can open a file for you.
- If the GMC letter enclosed a work details form, complete and return this to the GMC.
- In primary care, the different Performers List regulations require all UK GPs to notify the appropriate body in writing within seven days if they become subject to a regulator's investigation: NHS England in England, the Health Board in Scotland, the Local Health Board in Wales and the Board in Northern Ireland.
- If you work in an NHS trust, whilst you might not have a legal obligation to notify your employer of a GMC provisional enquiry, this is something to discuss with your adviser as it can sometimes be prudent to advise the trust of the investigation to demonstrate transparency and engagement even if there is no obligation. The GMC will likely make enquiries of all your employers, and it is often better that you speak with them so they know to expect the enquiry.
- If you hold private practising privileges, you should consider any contractual obligations regarding informing the private provider about the enquiry
- Don't comment or respond to the GMC (except by returning the work details form) until you have contacted us and sought advice. There is no requirement to provide comments to the GMC.
What to send the MDU in a GMC provisional enquiry case (all without patient identifiers)
- The GMC letter in its entirety (even though it may look like a generic letter).
- A copy of all the documents enclosed with the GMC letter.
- Your account of what happened in the case and any other documentation you have. You might, for example, have relevant clinical records or letters.
- Your reflections on the case. If it is a case you have written up for your portfolio or discussed at appraisal, it would be helpful for us to see it.
This page was correct at publication on 17/02/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.