GMC decision makers given more flexibility in cases where there is a low risk to public protection

Case examiners and other fitness to practise decision makers at the General Medical Council (GMC) now have more discretion to close complaints following updates to its guidance.

The changes to the medical regulator’s Guidance for decision makers when violence and dishonesty may represent a lower risk to public protection, are part of its commitment to assure fairness in its processes through more efficient and proportionate investigations. 

Decision makers will now be able to weigh the full circumstances of a concern earlier in the fitness to practise process to assess the overall risk to public protection including to public confidence in the profession– meaning some concerns may not need to be investigated or referred to a tribunal. 

Concerns that fall under the guidance are those that are minor in nature and did not impact patient care. Allegations of violence and dishonesty which raise a risk to public protection, including where there is a history of repeated behaviour, will continue to be investigated.

"This more flexible and compassionate approach to regulation is tailored to the risk posed by each individual case"

Anthony Omo

GMC General Counsel and Director of Fitness to Practise 

The GMC engaged with patient and doctor representatives, including medical defence organisations, who provided feedback on the changes and whether it would be proportionate to investigate certain concerns. 

Examples of concerns that, under the updated guidance and if there were no aggravating factors, would no longer need to be investigated include:

  • a doctor giving false details to a market research company, in order qualify for free products
  • a doctor pushing a colleague out the way following a heated argument. 

Anthony Omo, General Counsel and Director of Fitness to Practise at the General Medical Council, said: 

‘This updated guidance is in the interests of both patients and doctors. We know doctors find being under GMC investigation very stressful, and it is important to us to do all we can to minimise that. 

‘This more flexible and compassionate approach to regulation is tailored to the risk posed by each individual case. The changes will avoid unnecessary investigations where the doctor does not pose a risk to public protection or to the public’s confidence in the profession. 

‘Complainants can also find the process difficult – this more proportionate approach will see matters, where there is no risk to the public, dealt with more swiftly. Patients can still have confidence that public protection is at the heart of all our work. Dishonesty and violence are serious matters, and we will continue to investigate concerns, and, where appropriate, refer to a tribunal.’

The guidance comes into effect on today (Thursday 4 April) and more information can be found on the GMC’s website.