GMC leeway for 'minor mistakes'

GPs who admit having a temporary problem which is affecting their work will not face a disciplinary hearing if new GMC proposals are adopted.

Instead of facing fitness-to-practise panels, GPs who have been reported to the GMC because their work is not up to scratch will be able to hold their hands up to minor mistakes caused by surmountable problems such as alcoholism or stress.

If the DoH accepts the proposals, the new system will be introduced early next year.

GPs who opt for 'consensual disposal' will have to accept restrictions to their right to practise, but will not be struck off or suspended from work.

A list of those under restrictions would be placed on the GMC's website, but removed when rehabilitation was complete.

The decision to push ahead with the proposals comes after a three-month consultation which ended on 17 July.

GMC chairman Sir Graeme Catto said fitness-to-practise panels were costly and not always appropriate.

'We have to look for a pattern of unacceptable practice and not just one incident in the career of a good doctor,' he said.

'We also have to take into account the patient's views. These cases are sometimes major and have to go before a panel. But some can be dealt with without the expense of a hearing or the distress it can cause.

'We are talking about a small number of doctors who can be allowed to continue to practise although they admit that there are temporary circumstances which mean they should be put under some limitations.'

A spokeswoman for the GMC explained that although a GP would not be not struck off the register, he or she might be compelled to go into voluntary suspension if, for example, an addiction to alcohol is affecting their ability to work.

'This is by no means appropriate in all cases. If there is any risk to the public or any public interest in the case going before a panel, it will do so. This will stop cases of GPs being put though the trauma of a hearing when there is no point to it,' she said.

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