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December’s medical news – response to HCPC fee hike & a new study into GMC sanction factors

Each month, the team at Medic Assistance Scheme finds articles and stories from the past few weeks that will help medical practitioners to stay on top of fitness to practise trends in their profession. If you have concerns relating to anything you’ve read on our website, contact us today.

New GP appointment times in England

Source: Nursing Times (17/12/2018)

It is now possible for patients to see GPs and practice nurses at the weekends and in the evenings, in a shift that has taken place three months ahead of NHS England’s schedule. The NHS estimates that these extended hours will allow for around nine million additional appointments every year and hope that pressure on general practices and A&Es will be reduced. The initiative comes after successful trials in Hertfordshire and London, where the vast majority of extra appointment slots were filled over the trial period.

Our take

Any move that reduces the strain on GP surgeries and A&E wards sounds like it should be positive, but it’s important to place this news in the context of the UK’s ongoing GP shortage. The working hours for nine million new appointments have to come from somewhere and it certainly isn’t coming from an influx of new GPs. With stress and burnout already well-documented issues for doctors and nurses, there is the possibility that a rise in appointment numbers will lead to increased stress- and fatigue-related fitness to practise concerns.

The CSP speaks out against upcoming HCPC fee hike

Source: Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (17/12/2018)

The CSP has produced a strong response to the HCPC’s proposed registration fee rise from £90 to £106 – an 18% increase. The organisation argues that the HCPC has not provided adequate reasons for why a price increase of any kind is necessary and has certainly not justified a price increase of this magnitude in a time of low wage increases and a rising cost of living. The CSP believes that if employers handled more minor disciplinary issues internally, the HCPC would not need to charge such high fees to fund its investigations.

Our take

The HCPC is facing a period of uncertainty. It is unclear how the body will deal with 98,000 social workers moving across to a new regulator, Social Work England. It remains to be seen whether the reduced number of fitness to practise cases will balance out the loss in registration fees. As for the CSP’s call for more internal complaint resolutions, such a change would likely benefit everyone involved. Internal investigations rarely take the toll on HCPC registrants that fitness to practise investigations exact and the HCPC would be free to invest more resources into finding the right result in more serious cases.

Can post-graduate exam performance predict GMC sanctions?

Source: GP Online (7/12/2018)

Research from University College London has shown that doctors who perform poorly in their postgraduate exams are twelve times more likely to face disciplinary action from the GMC later in their careers. The study also found that doctors are more likely to be sanctioned the longer that they have been on the GMC’s register. A UCL professor responsible for the study argued that the results showed a stronger link between the ostensibly academic exams and practical performance than had previously been assumed. In response to the study, a GMC spokesperson reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to supporting doctors in their early years of practice.

Our take

The results of this study highlight the fact that there is very rarely just one event that leads to GMC sanctions for a doctor. If both post-graduate exam performance and time spent on the medical register influence the likelihood of fitness to practise sanctions it is hard to pinpoint a single area that could be improved upon. In reality, it is likely that systemic changes would have the most impact on improved fitness to practise, recognising that not only is education important but also that doctors need ongoing support throughout their careers if they’re to maintain excellent standards.

A long-awaited update for dentistry standards

Source: Dentistry.co.uk (18/12/2018)

The FGDP (UK) Dentistry Standards were first published in 2006 and have just been re-published in a second edition. The revised standards document reflects the changes that have affected the industry in the intervening twelve years, responding to clinical and technical advances as well as a shift in patients’ oral health expectations. While patients now have a better understanding of oral health in general, dentists have also seen a rise in complaints and litigation. The new standards aim to help dentists navigate this changing landscape and deliver the best possible service to their patients.

Our take

Following last month’s story on dealing with difficult dentistry patients, the FGDP (UK)’s timely revision of dentistry standards demonstrates the profession’s commitment to improving doctor-patient relationships. In our view, this can only be a step in the right direction towards reducing the number of unnecessary complaints and fitness to practise investigations. In addition, we shouldn’t ignore the updated technical and clinical standards. Technology and dental practice has moved on in the last twelve years and giving dentists much-needed clarity will help them to offer the best possible service consistently.

Better complaint filtering for the GOC

Source: Optometry Today (20/11/2018)

The GOC took a step towards reducing the number of fitness to practise investigations they need to open by introducing new complaint acceptance criteria. The new criteria are designed to make it easier for the regulator to filter out minor complaints and focus on real allegations of impaired fitness to practise. The ultimate goal of the filtering process is to cut investigation wait times, allowing the GOC to put more resources into dealing with the most serious cases more quickly.

Our take

If the GOC’s new acceptance criteria work as planned, the changes should be positive for their registrants. The twin benefits of focused resources and reduced wait times will increase the chances of the investigation’s committee reaching the right decision and reduce the period of stress that the registrant has to endure. It seems that streamlining the fitness to practise process has been a common theme in this month’s news roundup, which leaves us hopeful that we will see a higher quality of investigation in 2019 and an ongoing commitment to giving medical professionals the support they need.

Related services

The Medic Assistance Scheme’s lawyers can help medical professionals in many of the areas referred to in these news topics. See below for the services that relate to December’s stories:

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