The GMC has announced that it is to run two pilot schemes, as part of its wider fitness to practise reforms. One will involve meetings with doctors who have been subject to an investigation, while the other will road test meetings with patients and relatives who have raised concerns about medical practitioners.

In the first pilot, the GMC will test whether meeting with doctors at the end of the investigation stage would help protect patients more quickly, by enabling sanctions to be imposed upon a doctor’s registration, by agreement, without the need for a hearing before a fitness to practise panel. Any action taken would still be made public via the GMC’s website and form part of the doctor’s record in the online medical register.

In cases where there is a dispute between the GMC and the doctor about the outcome of the investigation, or where the doctor does not accept the proposed sanction, the matter would be referred to a hearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, in the usual way.

The pilot is expected to run for up to nine months and will involve at least eighty meetings with doctors, before it is independently evaluated. At this stage, it will not extend to more serious cases where the doctor might face suspension or erasure from the register.

In the second pilot, the GMC will road test meetings with members of the public who have raised concerns about a practitioner. The aim will be to ensure the GMC can explain the investigation process and that its staff fully understand the issues behind the complaint. A further meeting will take place at the end of the case to explain the outcome. The pilot will cover meeting with complainants living in Greater London and the North West and will, likewise, be independently evaluated at its conclusion.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: “We believe these proposed changes could deliver a quicker and less stressful system for dealing with complaints which continues to put patient safety first … but there will be no cosy deals. The sanctions we propose must protect patients and it is important, too, that we continue to be open about what we are doing and publish any action we take against a doctor.”