GMC proposal to accelerate its fitness-to-practice procedure

Doctors may be able to avoid a public hearing if they accept whatever sanction the GMC recommends in fitness-to-practise cases, under plans set out by the regulator.

Niall Dickson: major reform (Photograph: JH Lancy)
Niall Dickson: major reform (Photograph: JH Lancy)

The GMC has set out the proposals in a bid to reverse a trend that has seen the number of hearing days soar by 66 per cent in the past three years, rising to 3,493 by 2010.

In a consultation document, the GMC said that if doctors accepted the sanctions it recommended, they could avoid stressful public hearings.

This would apply in cases of any level, up to and including cases in which suspension or erasure were recommended, the GMC consultation says.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: 'Our view is that attending a hearing can be a stressful experience for everyone involved and there is no need to do this if the doctor is willing to accept sanctions that protect patients. These changes would represent a major reform of our procedures and we are keen to ensure that all those with an interest in our work have the opportunity to contribute and respond.'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey backed the proposals. 'I think that sounds reasonable,' he said. 'The slowness of GMC proceedings is extremely stressful for doctors who find themselves in that situation. The GMC does seriously need to address the time it takes to deal with cases and if this works it is welcome.'

The consultation also discusses whether some cases should always trigger a public hearing and proposes increased opportunities for discussions between the GMC and doctors.

It also proposes automatic erasure for doctors with some criminal convictions, and suspension for doctors who refuse to co-operate in fitness-to-practise cases.

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