Hospital Dr News

Government will give GMC the powers to shape how they investigate concerns

Defence bodies welcome Government’s desire to speed up GMC investigations of doctors.

The Government has responded to the consultation Promoting Professionalism, Reforming Regulation, which aims to reform the regulators’ Fitness to Practice (FTP) processes and operating frameworks.

Defence bodies want the Government to expedite the removal of GMC’s right to appeal decisions made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

While the Government appears to support this, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has the same power – so it is unlikely to be of any significant relief to doctors.

The desire to give greater flexibility to the GMC to shape how they investigate concerns was also well received, but the Government offered few details and no timelines.

Dr Michael Devlin, MDU Head of Professional Standards and Liaison, said: “We welcome the Government’s undertaking to provide the GMC with powers to amend their procedures. FTP processes need to be more responsive and proportionate.

“We agree the GMC should be able to make a decision on a case without a panel hearing, if appropriate. It is good to see the government recognise that the current system is bureaucratic and time consuming and that it can be ‘burdensome and…stressful for patients, their families, registrants and employers’.

“Currently it is stressful for most doctors and it has been clear for a long time the GMC needs the power to amend the FTP procedures in a more efficient way.”

While the Government’s response highlights the importance of greater accountability and transparency to family members who have been affected by healthcare professionals, the MPS pointed out that there is no mention of the same to the professions they regulate.

This asymmetry of importance between the public and the profession does little to restore confidence among the profession, it says.

Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, said: “Medical Protection is deeply concerned that the long-awaited response from the Government does not set out clear details on what they will do next and when.

“The GMC’s power to appeal decisions by MPTS must be squashed without any delay. This power is unnecessary and merely duplicates the role of the PSA in such situations.

“The removal of the GMC’s right of appeal was a central recommendation in our submission to the Williams Review. This change is now urgently needed in order to restore the professions’ trust in the regulator. It must not be rolled up into and held back by broader proposals for reform which will take many years to implement.

“It is welcome that the Government has confirmed its intention to give greater flexibility to the GMC to shape how they investigate concerns. However, any additional freedom given to the regulators to reform their processes must be accompanied by safeguards to ensure they adequately consult with stakeholders first, while processes must remain fair, transparent and consistent.”

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