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Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
BMA: Speed up complaints
GP
Doctor complaints procedure is "too slow"
Many GPs under investigation for alleged malpractice are still treating patients because the complaints procedure is too slow, says the British Medical Association (BMA).

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the council of the British Medical Association, said on Thursday that some cases stretch back two years.

Conversely, some hospital doctors have been suspended from work for years - only to be exonerated eventually.

The BMA is pressing for the disciplinary procedures to be streamlined and speeded up.

One suggestion is for the doctors' disciplinary body, the General Medical Council, to take on more lay administrative staff.



There's an enormous backlog of people waiting years, which is not in their interests and not in the public interest or anyone else's

Dr Ian Bogle, British Medical Association

Another, now being considered by the GMC, is to cut much of the red tape that surrounds investigations into GPs.

As things stand, a hospital doctor about whom complaints are made can be suspended almost immediately under NHS rules.

But a GP may only be suspended by the GMC if there is clear evidence of wrongdoing, which generally only follows a lengthy assessment process.


Dr Ian Bogle
Dr Ian Bogle called for reform
Dr Bogle said: "There's an enormous backlog of people waiting years, which is not in their interests and not in the public interest or anyone else's."

Dr Bogle acknowledged there were allegedly "bad" doctors treating patients because of the unwieldy system.

Consultant Jim Johnson, head of a BMA working party looking at the GMC, said: "They really do have to sort themselves out and get their act up to scratch here in the interests of doctors, patients, everyone."

Mr Johnson highlighted the plight of hospital doctors who were suspended for long periods, and when eventually cleared of blame found that their clinical skills had become rusty.

A GMC spokesman said a two-year wait was most unusual, and in special cases it was possible to fast-track procedures and suspend a GP quickly.

He said: "Usually it's more like a few weeks rather than two years."

Under proposals due to be implemented next spring all doctors will have to prove their suitability to carry on practising once every five years.



This idea of uncaring, arrogant, non-sympathetic doctors is deeply damaging to the profession, and therefore deeply damaging to patient care

Dr Ian Bogle, British Medical Association

Dr Bogle said the plans for re-validation were supported by the profession, but must be simple and effective.

He also defended doctors from accusations of arrogance made in the interim report of the Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry into the retention without parental consent of organs from children who had died at the unit .

Dr Bogle said: "This idea of uncaring, arrogant, non-sympathetic doctors is deeply damaging to the profession, and therefore deeply damaging to patient care."

He said where criticism was justified the profession would take it on board, but it was not fair to make such judgements of events that happened years ago when attitudes were very different from what they are today.

New guidelines on consent are due to be released by the BMA shortly, possibly later this month.

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See also:

24 Mar 00 | Health
Complaints against GPs rise
09 Feb 00 | Health
GMC promises radical reform
23 Nov 99 | Health
MPs: Reform NHS complaints
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