Around 500 doctors who would have been investigated under the old GMC system went through a provisional enquiry in 2015, statistics published in a GMC blog post show.
The GMC committed to increasing its use of provisional enquiries in 2015 as a means of avoiding unnecessary investigations.
Doctors involved in the majority of these cases – around 400, 80% of those to undergo an enquiry – did not need to be investigated further, with just the remaining 100 cases being taken forward.
The regulator told GPonline it plans to release figures for 2016 later this year.
A provisional enquiry involves ‘gathering limited information’ to decide whether further investigation of a complaint is actually required, or if it should be referred to the doctor’s responsible officer or closed with no further action, according to the GMC.
More than 9,000 complaints were made against doctors during 2015 – the majority of which were thrown out during a preliminary triage stage, for example because there was considered to be no serious or persistent failure.
Further investigation was deemed necessary for around 2,800 cases. In previous years, this would have automatically qualified them for formal investigation – resulting in many undergoing the process needlessly.
The GMC has indicated that around 500 doctors were given a provisional enquiry in 2015, with 400 of these facing no further action afterwards.
A member of the GMC provisional enquiries team said: ‘We started using provisional enquiries about 18 months ago, with a fairly limited number of cases, now far more cases are going through this route. We want to speed up our approach, though there will always be some cases that need a full investigation.
‘There are some cases where we take immediate action to prevent doctors from continuing to practise while we carry out our investigation, due to the very serious nature of the allegations and the potential risks posed to the public.'