Rise in fitness-to-practise referrals not caused by slipping standards

Slipping medical standards are not to blame for the 30% increase in fitness-to-practise referrals since 2004, the GMC has found.

Mr Dickson: 'Rather than keeping quiet about problems, doctors are more likely to speak up when they see anything that could pose a risk to patient safety.'

The GMC said the rise in fitness-to-practise referrals is instead due to improved systems of monitoring and oversight by employers.

It said there has been a sharp increase in the number of doctors referred to the GMC by medical directors and other public bodies, including the police.

But it added that doctors themselves are increasingly likely to report concerns about colleagues.

It found medical directors in PCTs are more likely to report that independent contractors, including GPs, had raised concerns about colleagues compared with those at an NHS trust or foundation trust.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the number of concerns raised by GPs about colleagues could increase as the NHS moves towards clinical commissioning.

He said: ‘Some of the peer pressures issues will remain pretty much as they are now. You could argue that being brought together might increase that as people are concerned that it’s their institution that is going to be affected by this [particular issue].

‘Likewise, even within clinical commissioning groups there may be concerns that somebody is doing something slightly odd in terms of referrals then you could argue that that might increase it.’

He added that the number of fitness-to-practise referrals could increase as revalidation is implemented and further advances are made in clinical governance systems.

Mr Dickson said: ‘More complaints about doctors does not necessarily mean standards are slipping. It could be a sign that the systems to identify problems are improving.

‘In addition, rather than keeping quiet about problems, doctors are more likely to speak up when they see anything that could pose a risk to patient safety. And that is exactly as it should be.’

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