GMC progresses commitment to assure fairness in its processes

The General Medical Council (GMC) has today published an update of recent improvements it has made to assure fairness in its processes.The update looks at how the regulator is responding to recent reviews, including action to address recommendations from Professor Iqbal Singh OBE and Martin Forde KC. And it explores how the GMC continues to take forward its regulatory fairness review.

Over the last year the GMC has focused on its processes, policies, and guidance to enable more efficient and proportionate investigations and flexible decision making. Its employer liaison advisers have continued to work with responsible officers to make sure the referrals they make are fair, helping to promote a ‘local first’ culture.

In addition, the GMC is making progress, with others across the UK’s healthcare systems, to achieve targets to tackle areas of inequality that exist for doctors.

Improvements detailed in the latest update include:

  • Amending guidance so that decision makers have more flexibility to reconsider decisions to refer a case to a tribunal if the GMC receives new information that means a tribunal isn’t necessary.
  • Developing a set of escalation principles to help enable a culture of professional curiosity across the GMC’s fitness to practise processes, where colleagues feel able to challenge decisions or raise concerns about a case at the earliest opportunity. The GMC’s aim is to encourage more empowered and engaged teams, who understand the collective responsibility to get to a fair outcome.
  • Making sure that when instructing counsel – the barristers who represent the GMC at tribunal hearings - about a case, they are specifically asked to provide an assessment of its overall merits and strengths before it proceeds further, and to raise concerns if they have any.
  • Updating the guidance that decision makers use in cases involving allegations of low-level violence and dishonesty. The GMC are proposing changes to support a more proportionate approach, so they will only take action where there is a clear risk to public protection. The updates will support decision makers when deciding whether to investigate, and, following an investigation, whether to refer the case to a tribunal.
  • Tailored equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) learning for all staff to make sure decisions are fair and unbiased. The GMC has also expanded learning for decision makers so they have a greater understanding of how culture may impact a doctor's communication, attitudes, and behaviours - this is considered when investigating concerns.
  • Running audits in a more regular and consistent way across the organisation. And continuing to ask for more feedback on the GMC’s work from people who experience its processes.

The GMC has also supported the Department of Health and Social Care to reform the legislation that governs how it operates, so that it is able to take a more flexible approach to regulation.

The regulator continues to push for changes to its fitness to practise processes, to make them less adversarial and more efficient, and for proposals that will allow it to be more transparent and accountable to both doctors and the public.

Charlie Massey, Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

‘We are a learning organisation and embedding fairness is at the heart of our work. Success won’t be achieved overnight but we will continue to act on independent recommendations and work towards our equality, diversity and inclusion targets, with the support of other organisations, to see positive change.

‘We will also continue to call on the UK government to prioritise this work, so that we can achieve our aim of being a more effective, relevant and compassionate regulator in the years ahead.’