Doctors’ phone line triggers ‘serious’ GMC inquiries
A whistle-blowing helpline arrange by the UK’s regulator of doctors two months ago has caused 12 investigations into allegations of a “very serious” nature.
Figures seen by the BBC show the confidential phone line has had 187 calls since its launch.
One in seven was regarded as serious enough for the final Medical Council (GMC) to make further inquiries.
Most of the callers were doctors but some members of the general public rang too.
The 12 “very serious” investigations involve complaints which suggest a physician will not be fit to practise and there’s a risk to patient safety.
The phone calls have also triggered four less serious inquiries – these are allegations which can justify action by the regulator in the event that they were portion of a much wider pattern of outrage a few doctor.
The GMC is thinking about information in seven other cases which have come to light throughout the confidential phone line. Four cases were looked into after which closed.
Relatively high numbers of calls were from the north-west of britain, the West Midlands and London.
The GMC launched its helpline in December, to enable doctors to boost serious concerns about patient safety in the event that they felt unable to take action locally.
Every doctor within the UK was sent new guidance in March last year, making it clear they had knowledgeable duty to behave to offer protection to patients’ interests always.
The chief executive of the GMC, Niall Dickson, said: “We’ve not engaged in a large publicity campaign around this line, so the response shows there’s a need for this service.
“A few of the doctors were phoning up with serious concerns, which has ended in ongoing investigations. We’re more than happy that concerns are reaching us – it’s a technique of pursuing areas where patients can be in peril.
“There are situations where doctors genuinely feel intimidated by our surroundings they’re in and do not feel they’re able to raise concerns. That’s something which we, the health service and the profession more generally need to tackle.
“We’ve to maneuver to a situation where this is absolutely routine for professionals to position patient safety first at every opportunity – even though this suggests raising concern a couple of more senior colleague.”
Advice and support
Some of the 187 helpline calls were directed elsewhere – to the nurses’ regulator, as an example – or they involved more general inquiries, akin to doctors wishing to pay their registration fees.
The question of why concerns about poor care within the NHS don’t always get flagged up or handled has been a topic because the Francis report into the flaws at Mid-Staffordshire trust was published a fortnight ago.
The GMC phone line has received 43 calls since then – this doesn’t represent a surge.
The regulator is to listen to four “fitness to practise” cases involving doctors from Mid-Staffordshire. The primary of those is because of begin next month.
There are various avenues for reporting poor care.
A free whistle-blowing helpline covering concerns in regards to the NHS and the social care sector was launched by the former Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, in January last year. The charity Mencap has a 3-year contract worth £480,000 to run the road.
It has had 1,325 calls since then – and 105 requests for advice by email. It gives advice and support to individuals, employers and trade unions.
The Patients Association receives greater than 8,000 calls on its helpline yearly.
Patients and members of staff may ring the most important regulator of NHS and social care organisations in England, the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The CQC says it received around 600 calls a month last year which it classified as “genuine concerns” from whistle-blowing staff.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) launched a phone line to support whistle-blowing nurses in 2009. It received around two calls per week in its first year.