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BMJ 2011; 342:d1817 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d1817

(Published on : 05 April 2011)

Cite this as: BMJ 2011; 342:d1817

Place of medical qualification and outcomes of UK General Medical Council “fitness to practise” process: cohort study.

Charlotte Humphrey, professor of health care evaluation (*1),
Shaista Hickman, research associate (*1),
Martin C Gulliford, professor of public health (*2)

+ Author Affiliations

(*1). Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, King’s College London, London SE1 8WA, UK
(*2). Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King’s College London, London SE1 3QD

Correspondence To : C Humphrey 

charlotte.humphrey@kcl.ac.uk

Accepted on : 01 February 2011


Abstract

Objectives : To evaluate whether country of medical qualification is associated with “higher impact” decisions at different stages of the UK General Medical Council’s (GMC’s) “fitness to practise” process after allowing for other characteristics of doctors and inquiries.

Design : Retrospective cohort study.

Setting : Medical practice in the United Kingdom.

Participants : 7526 inquiries to the GMC concerning 6954 doctors.

Main Outcome Measures : Proportion of inquiries referred for further investigation at initial triage by the GMC, proportion of inquiries investigated that were subsequently referred for adjudication, and proportion of inquiries resulting in doctors being erased or suspended from the medical register; relative odds of higher impact decisions, by country of qualification, adjusted for doctors’ sex, years since primary medical qualification, medical specialty, source and type of inquiry, and nature of allegations.

Results : Of 7526 inquiries, 4702 concerned doctors who qualified in the UK, 624 concerned doctors who qualified elsewhere in the European Union (EU), and 2190 concerned doctors who qualified outside the EU. At the initial triage, 30% (n=1398) of inquiries concerning doctors who qualified in the UK had a high impact decision, compared with 43% (267) for doctors who qualified elsewhere in the EU and 46% (998) for those who qualified outside the EU. The adjusted relative odds of an inquiry being referred for further investigation were 1.67 (95% confidence interval 1.28 to 2.17) for doctors who qualified elsewhere in the EU and 1.61 (1.38 to 1.88) for those who qualified outside the EU, compared with doctors who qualified in the UK. At the investigation stage, 5% (228) of inquiries received concerning UK qualified doctors were referred for adjudication, compared with 10% for EU (63) or non-EU (221) qualified doctors. The adjusted relative odds of referral for adjudication were 2.14 (1.46 to 3.16) for doctors who qualified elsewhere in the EU and 1.68 (1.31 to 2.16) for those who qualified outside the EU. At the adjudication stage, 1% (69) of inquiries received concerning UK qualified doctors led to erasure or suspension, compared with 4% (24) for doctors who qualified elsewhere in the EU and 3% (71) for non-EU qualified doctors. The adjusted relative odds of erasure or suspension were 2.16 (1.22 to 3.80) for doctors who qualified elsewhere in the EU and 1.48 (1.00 to 2.19) for those who qualified outside the EU.

Conclusions : Inquiries to the GMC concerning doctors qualified outside the UK are more likely to be associated with higher impact decisions at each stage of the fitness to practice process. These associations were not explained by measured inquiry related and doctor related characteristics, but residual confounding cannot be excluded.


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