Hospital Dr News

Number of GMC investigations into doctors to be reduced in new approach

The GMC is seeking to reduce the number of full investigations into one-off mistakes by doctors – known as single clinical incidents – following a two-year pilot scheme.

The move follows a trial during which information was gathered quickly, following a complaint or referral, to assess if there was any ongoing risk to patients, and before deciding if full investigations were required.

More than 200 single clinical incident cases were closed during the pilot after the additional information, such as medical records and input from independent experts, Responsible Officers and the doctors themselves, was considered at an early stage.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: “We’ve found that getting more information quickly in certain cases clarifies if there is any ongoing risk to patients, and so whether we need to take action.

“The pilot was to see if using that approach in cases involving allegations of one-off clinical mistakes would allow us to properly assess the risk without the need for a full investigation. It does, and as the pilot was a success it will now be implemented as our standard practice.”

The new process means that once additional information has been gathered the GMC will decide whether to open a full investigation, or to close the complaint following its initial enquiries.

Concerns which can be considered single clinical incidents are those that involve a single instance of treatment to one patient. During the two-year pilot 309 cases were considered, and after initial enquiries 202 of them were closed without the need for a full investigation.

Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at the Medical Protection, commented: “We believe that this decision by the GMC will be beneficial to both doctors and patients since it will reduce the number of unnecessary delays and stress that a full investigation can cause.”

However, the MPS called for legal reform of how the GMC operates.

“Reform is needed to ensure that the regulator follows a fair and proportionate process, that both patients and doctors can have confidence in.

“The current legislative framework is outdated and does not give the regulator sufficient discretion to go further in sifting out the number of less serious complaints where no action is required. This translates into unnecessary stress and delays for doctors and patients.”

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