When a doctor’s fitness to practise is called in to question, the GMC has a legal obligation to investigate the complaint to establish if the doctor’s fitness to practise may be impaired. 

Complaints about a doctor’s fitness to practise can come from many sources.  The GMC reports that around 66% of complaints come from members of the public and around 4% come from doctors’ employers. 

However, complaints can also be made by other organisations such as the Care Quality Commission in England, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and the police. 

When the GMC receives a complaint about a doctor, the first thing they do is review the merits of the complaints to establish if an investigation is necessary.  They refer to this step as triage. 

When the GMC triage complaints they will judge the merits of the complaint against the GMC’s Good medical practice guidance to make a judgement as to whether there has been a serious or persistent failure against the guidance.  The GMC reported that in 2017 they received just over 7,500 concerns of which around 5,500 did not require them to investigate. 

It is worth noting that in cases where the GMC decided to take no action but, where the complaint could raise concerns if it formed part of a wider pattern – the GMC will notify the doctor’s responsible officer or employer.  The GMC will share their concerns with the doctor “…so they can learn from this as part of their appraisal.” 

Cases that the GMC deems requires further investigation will be progressed accordingly and at the end of the investigation, two case examiners, one medical and one non-medical, will review all the evidence collected and decide whether to: 

  • Conclude a case without any action (in some cases, they may provide advice to the doctor which is not a formal sanction)
  • Issue a warning – where a doctor’s behaviour or performance shows a significant departure from the standards set for professional practice, but a restriction on the doctor’s registration is not necessary
  • Agree undertakings – restrictions on a doctor’s practice or behaviour, such as being supervised or undergoing retraining
  • Refer the case to a Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPTS) hearing

The GMC reported that 72% of cases following an investigation is closed with no action or with advice given to the doctor. 

The remained is referred to the MPTS.  According to the GMC, the majority of MPTS hearings end with the decision to suspend the doctor from practising (around 84 doctors per year), and in the most serious cases, the decision to strike the doctor off the medical register (around 87 doctors per year).

Stephen McCaffrey

I am a GMC Defence Barrister who has represented large number of medical professionals before their regulatory bodies in either first instance proceedings or appeals.  I can help with all matters relating to GMC Fitness to Practise Referrals issues including:

  • GMC fitness to practise referrals
  • GMC fitness to practise hearings
  • Appeals against a MPTS Tribunal determination
  • MPTS Interim Order hearings
  • Appeals against a MPTS Interim Orders Tribunal determination
  • Preparing your case before the Case Examiners
  • Help with the decision of the Case Examiners
  • Help with voluntary removal
  • Registration advice
  • Appeal against refusal of registration
  • Restoration to the Register
  • Investigation and disciplinary hearings at work
  • Criminal investigation and proceedings
  • Police cautions
  • DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service] issues

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