35% drop in GMC complaints reaching full investigation is good news for doctors, says MDU

The number of complaints reported to the GMC that reached a full scale investigation dropped by more than 35% in five years, according to a new report from the GMC.

The GMC report, State of Medical Education and Practice 2017 found that in 2011, 2,265 cases reached a full investigation where as in 2016, this number dropped to 1,436.

The Medical Defence Union has welcomed the GMC's improvements to its fitness to practise (FTP) procedures, which have reduced the number of doctors who have to face an FTP investigation by the GMC.

Dr Catherine Wills, deputy head of advisory services at the MDU, said:

'We know how stressful it can be for a doctor undergoing a GMC investigation and are pleased at the success of the measures put in place by the GMC to reduce the need for investigations at an early stage. These include provisional enquiries to identify cases that would not reach the GMC's threshold, even if the facts were proven.

'In July 2016, the GMC added single clinical incidents to its criteria for provisional enquiries, which aims to identify cases that can be closed without a full, formal investigation, subject to examination of key pieces of information that are sufficient to satisfy the GMC that the doctor in question poses no risk to patient safety.

'For many years the MDU has made it clear that a one-off clinical incident is unlikely to be an indicator of concerns about patient safety. They are usually an unfortunate and unique set of circumstances that must be brought to the patient's attention and be addressed swiftly and appropriately. They can present opportunities for learning and improving practice, but are generally not reliable indicators of serious concerns.

'We are pleased to see evidence that the GMC is identifying these cases and dealing with them in a swifter and more proportionate manner. We welcome this move that sees complaints resolved more quickly for the good of both doctors and patients.'

This guidance was correct at publication 19/12/2017. It 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.

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