GMC to limit fitness to practise hearings

Higher proportion of performance concerns could be dealt with outside formal hearing process.

The GMC is to reform its fitness to practise procedures in a bid to cut the number of doctors who end up in hearings.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said he wanted to find the 'right system' to ensure doctors were not unnecessarily put through hearings.

'The decision is partly about cost but it is also because when you reach the hearing stage everyone has lost out,' he said.

'There must be a better way of reaching an agreement with doctors, while still protecting patients.'

He said the GMC had 'no desire or ambition to push doctors through some sort of public humiliation through hearings' if other solutions could be found.

Mr Dickson said a formal document setting out proposals would be published later this year. This will then be subject to consultation by the profession and patient organisations.

GMC data show the number of serious fitness to practise cases brought to the council has been increasing since 2007.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) welcomed the reforms, pointing out that hearings were expensive and stressful for doctors, witnesses and patients.

Dr Michael Devlin, head of medical advisory services at the MDU, said: 'Where there are other methods of dealing with concerns it is logical and right that these are explored.'

A system of 'consensual disposal' could offer a way to cut back on hearings, he said.

'This is when, in effect, the matter is dealt with on paper, through an exchange of correspondence - perhaps a meeting, or the GMC legal team dealing with the case.

'This might be entirely appropriate for a health case, or a clinical performance case, where local arrangements could be put in place to facilitate remediation.'

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