Resolving concerns promptly and proportionately through provisional enquiries

While our primary duty is to protect patients, we are committed to reducing the impact that investigations can have on everyone involved, by responding more swiftly and proportionately to concerns.

Provisional enquiries – introduced to a limited number of cases in 2014 – involve gathering initial information, such as medical records or a local investigation report, to help us decide much earlier whether we need to open a full investigation. Provisional enquiries take around six weeks, compared with six to eight months for a full investigation.

Diagram showing that of the 519 concerns considered under provisional enquiries, only 142 resulted in a full investigation.

In 2018, around 80% of doctors involved in a provisional enquiry faced no further action as there was no significant risk to patient safety and, where appropriate, the doctor had taken steps to avoid repetition of anything of concern.

Cases must meet specific criteria to go through a provisional enquiry. As a result of their positive impact, we have broadened the scope of provisional enquiries to include cases involving a one-off clinical concern. These early interventions are among a wide range of reforms to improve the way we address concerns, so that we can give an efficient and timely response while protecting public safety. 

We will continue to look at ways in which we can expand provisional enquiries to broaden their positive impact.