The annual volume of Fitness to Practise enquiries made to the General Medical Council (GMC) has increased by 30% since 2004, by 14% since 2006 and by 11% between 2008 and 2009. Many enquiries come from Persons Acting in a Public Capacity (PAPCs), that is people acting on behalf of a public organisation, and a majority of those are from public healthcare bodies. Whilst PAPC enquiries are not solely responsible for the increase in enquiries, they are believed to be a key contributory factor, increasing from 394 in 2006 to 1,030 in 2009. Research was commissioned by the GMC to investigate, principally through contact with medical directors in NHS Trusts, Foundation Trusts, Primary Care Trusts and Health Boards across the UK and Northern Ireland, the rise in PAPC enquiries. The research report has now been published.
Reasons for the rise in referrals was an issue explored both quantitatively and qualitatively and the overall opinion was that any increase was as a result of improved systems within organisations for detecting and dealing with performance issues rather than diminishing standards by medical professionals.
More specifically the increase was attributed to three key areas:-
• an increased management ethos: maintaining high professional standards, the introduction of clinical governance systems and a procedure for reporting incidents;
• changes in general public attitudes: patients feel more empowered to complain, part driven at least by awareness of some high profile cases in the press; and
• changes in colleague attitudes: the increased management ethos has led to recognition amongst medical colleagues that performance concerns should be highlighted. There are also more effective methods to lodge confidential complaints
Download the GMC report Research into Fitness to Practise referrals 2011 here.