Drop in FTP investigations against GPs during pandemic | Panda Anku

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(FTP) investigations into general practitioners have declined since 2019, data from the General Medical Council (GMC) have revealed


Between 2019 and 2021, GP FTP investigations fell by almost half (45%) from 476 to 261, and the total number of investigations conducted by the regulator against all physicians has also decreased.

Anthony Omo, general counsel and director of fitness to practice, told Pulse that GMC has “worked hard” to streamline its FTP process.

He added that the regulator is keen for the government to change legislation so it can be “fairer and more focused” in its investigations.

The Government said it will enact legislation that will “enable faster decisions, provide an early resolution for patients, families and professionals and ensure that the steps needed to protect the public are taken sooner”.

However, this has been postponed “until at least 2024”.

The BMA welcomed the drop in the number of examinations, but added that it remains of concern that ethnic minority doctors are still more likely to face examinations than white doctors.

Total number of investigations Total number of family doctor examinations Percentage of total who are against GPs
2019 1,549 476 31%
2020 1.119 299 27%
2021 1.007 261 26%
Source: GMC

Mr Omo said the GMC “only conducts full investigations when patients or public confidence are at risk”.

He added: “Although we have reduced the number of physicians we screen, our progress is constrained by outdated legislation that needs updating, forcing us to bring too many doctors in our eligibility to screen.” practice. Regulatory reform would allow us to be fairer and focus more on cases that matter for patient protection and public confidence.

“We remain ready to move forward with regulatory reforms once the Department of Health and Human Services issues the necessary legislation to do so.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the BMA’s professional regulation committee, Dr. Mark Corcoran told Pulse that while it’s “good” that fewer GPs have recently undergone FTP screening, the BMA is “clear” that the current FTP process is “not fit for purpose.”

dr Corcoran explained, “Problems can start early in a referral decision when there are inconsistencies and unfairness in referrals.

“The GMC’s own research shows that ethnic minority doctors are already referred twice as often as white doctors and international medical graduates are referred three times as often as UK-trained doctors. And having received a referral, there are further concerns about the objectivity and fairness of the GMC’s decision to conduct an investigation.’

dr John Holden, Chief Medical Officer at MDDUS, told Pulse, “Our members will have peace of mind that the number of GMC investigations is declining, in line with a plan they first piloted before the onset of the pandemic.

“Particularly welcome is the reduction in the number of GPs at risk of investigation. We hope this is an acknowledgment by the GMC of the stress and pressure these doctors have had to cope with working on the front lines of Covid-19.

dr Udvitha Nandasoma, head of advisory services at MDU, told Pulse they were “pleased” with the drop in the number of investigations, but added: “We have to be careful about interpreting these numbers.”

“GPs are under more pressure now than ever. To ensure this seemingly positive trend in GP screenings continues, the government must deliver on its promise to modernize the regulation of the GMC. They have to introduce this law later this year. That was a promise they made to the profession last year and it’s a promise that must be kept.’

The BMA and MDU complained to the Minister of Health last month after learning that reform of the law for doctors’ fitness for practice procedures due this year will be postponed “until at least 2024”.

dr Rob Hendry, medical director of the Medical Protection Society, told Pulse the reduction could be due to a mix of pandemic-related factors.

He said: “For example, during the first wave of the virus, many patients delayed because of non-Covid-19 illnesses or injuries, or did not see a doctor because they felt a problem unrelated to Covid-19 was not considered a priority or they didn’t want to disrupt the already pressured NHS staff.

“Patients who had access to healthcare services during the peak of the virus may also have been less likely to complain as there was overwhelming public support for the NHS at the time.”

He added: “The GMC’s guidance for its staff to consider the context created by Covid-19 when considering complaints about doctors may also be a contributing factor, but we expect to see a clearer picture of the impact of this guidance.” the coming years.’

The GMC presented new guidance on assessing allegations in September 2020, saying the “unforeseen circumstances” of the pandemic would be taken into account when examining doctors’ fitness to practice.

The GMC also said in January 2022 it would take into account the “persistent fatigue” experienced by GPs during the pandemic when assessing FTP complaints.

Several groups have criticized the GMC’s recently proposed changes to its Guide to Good Medical Practice (GMP), saying they could “open the floodgates” to FTP investigations, which the GMC denied.

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