Concerning Number Of Malpractice Cases Going Unchecked

National Audit Finds More Than 1 In 5 Doctor Disciplinary Cases Are Not Investigated Fully

17.01.2014

More than one in five cases of malpractice by doctors in the UK are being dropped without a full investigation.

This is according to a national audit carried out by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), which analysed 100 allegations that were thrown out by the General Medical Council (GMC).

The Telegraph reports that in 22 per cent of these cases, mistakes were indeed made.

Ministers said the figures are "very concerning" and there have been calls for changes to be made to the GMC.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, told the news provider: "The GMC urgently needs to review the way it handles its disciplinary cases. Incompetent doctors must be held to account to ensure patient and public confidence in the NHS."

The GMC states that its legal purpose is to "protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the public by making sure that doctors meet our standards for good medical practice" and it generally receives more than 9,000 malpractice claims against doctors each year.

However, just over 200 are considered for full tribunals, with the vast majority being closed at an earlier stage.

The PSA report found that one unnamed doctor who was involved in the high profile NHS Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust scandal did not receive any sanctions.

Of the 22 cases that were mishandled by the GMC, the PSA discovered the reasons for ending nine cases early were not clear or adequate, while a further four claims were dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Niall Dickson, GMC chief executive, told the news provider the organisation has an "ambitious programme of reform" and it will act on the areas highlighted by the PSA audit.

He added that the PSA found the GMC is meeting its core objectives and believes the regulator's decision not to conduct further investigations in 2014 are a sign that it is happy with the body's procedures. 

Expert Opinion
The report highlights some alarming figures which need to be addressed by the GMC. Disciplinary cases for doctors should always be treated seriously and thoroughly examined to ensure that nothing is missed during the all stages of investigation.

“All patients who are cared for within NHS Trusts should be provided with the highest standard of care in a safe and dignified manner. It is worrying that so many cases of malpractice are being closed without due care and attention being spent on the investigation.

“Urgent steps must be taken by the GMC to ensure that protocol for each investigation is followed correctly.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner