Figures released by the General Medical Council indicate that hundreds of doctors were spared the process of being investigated by the organisation following the introduction of provisional enquiries.
Approximately 500 doctors would have been investigated under the old GMC system, according to figures gleaned from the 2015 calendar year.
The statistics were published in a blog post on the GMC website, which suggested that the policy of committing to increasing the use of provisional enquiries has proved successful.
This approach was intended to cut down on the number of unnecessary investigations, and the GMC believes that it has been successful thus far.
Doctors involved in the majority of these cases did not need to be investigated further.
Figures for 2016 should be released before the end of the calendar year, and the GMC is cautiously optimistic that these will be even more promising.
The provisional enquiry process involves gathering limited information in order to decide whether further investigation or complaint is necessary.
If not then the other option is to refer to the doctor’s responsible officer or for the case to be closed with no further action, according to the GMC.
Around 9,000 complaints were made against doctors during the 2015 calendar year, and the majority of these were thrown out at the preliminary trial stage.
In many cases that where thrown out there was ultimately no serious or persistent failure demonstrated.
Further investigation was deemed necessary for around 2,800 cases.
In previous years, this would have automatically qualified them for formal investigation, resulting in many undergoing the process needlessly.
Thus, the GMC asserts that the new system has delivered significant improvement for both the health service and doctors.
Indeed, around 80% of the doctors provided with a provisional enquiry in the 2015 calendar year faced no further action once this process had been undertaken.
The GMC has indicated that around 500 doctors were given a provisional enquiry in 2015, with 400 of these facing no further action afterwards.
A member of the GMC provisional enquiries team noted that provisional enquiries have been rather successful.
“We started using provisional enquiries about 18 months ago, with a fairly limited number of cases, now far more cases are going through this route. We want to speed up our approach, though there will always be some cases that need a full investigation. There are some cases where we take immediate action to prevent doctors from continuing to practise while we carry out our investigation, due to the very serious nature of the allegations and the potential risks posed to the public.”