The GMC has pledged to introduce steps designed to reduce the number of investigations it carries out into clinical mistakes made by doctors.
The medical regulator has said that it will seek to implement new processes designed to speed up information gathering and decision making following a complaint, which it says will greatly reduce the number of single clinical-incident investigations it performs.
The move comes following the conclusion of a two-year pilot scheme, during which GMC investigators sought to rapidly assess information from medical records and independent experts, to determine whether patients were at ongoing risk and if a full investigation was needed.
A total of 309 cases looked at during the two-year pilot resulted in almost two-thirds being closed without requiring a full-scale investigation.
'Fair and efficient'
BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul (pictured below) welcomed the GMC’s decision to reduce the amount of full investigations saying that it would encourage a fairer and more proportionate regulatory approach.
He said: ‘Being subject to a [FTP] fitness-to-practise complaint can be an extremely serious and distressing experience for doctors, not least as investigations are all too often delayed and drawn out, even when they result in no further action being taken.
‘To serve the public effectively, the GMC must ensure that the investigations which it rightly conducts are fair and efficient and do not cause unnecessary stress for doctors.
‘The GMC’s recent pilot clearly shows that complaints against doctors can be dealt with promptly and effectively without requiring burdensome processes.
‘The decision to implement this approach as common practice is a significant step forward towards a fairer, more proportionate system of regulation, so we welcome today’s announcement.’
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said that unnecessarily holding a full investigation following a clinical complaint was in neither doctors’ or patients’ interests.
He added that the pilot scheme’s success meant that the GMC would now seek to adopt its processes as standard practice.
He said: ‘Protecting patients is our priority. But opening full investigations unless absolutely necessary is not in the interests of patients or doctors and causes additional stress and delay. 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.
‘Not all complaints are suitable for this process but during the pilot we were able to avoid the need for full investigations in many cases that involved single clinical incidents. Even where doctors had made a mistake we were able to check if they understood what had gone wrong and had taken steps to make sure it wouldn’t happen again, avoiding the need for action.’
‘We have made a lot of changes to our FTP processes, and this means we can deal with concerns quicker, reduce the impact on doctors and ultimately protect patients in a more timely manner.’
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