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GMC to backdate civil standard of proof change

By Steve Nowottny

The GMC plans to retrospectively apply the new civil standard of proof to outstanding fitness to practise cases, prompting outrage among medical defence experts.

The switch from the criminal to the civil standard of proof, which had been expected this week, is now delayed until 31 May. Panellists and staff have been prepared for the rule change, and although still awaiting rubber stamping by the law lords, it is almost certain to go ahead.

But Pulse has learned the GMC has rejected calls to implement transitional arrangements, meaning cases where hearings have not started by 30 May will now be judged on the civil standard – even though the original complaint could have been made more than a year ago.

A medical defence body , which lobbied intensively for an interim arrangement, attacked the decision as ‘manifestly unfair'.

Dr Hugh Stewart, head of case decisions at the Medical Defence Union, said: ‘It's usually many months and could be over a year between the doctor receiving notice of a complaint and that case actually being heard. Doctors are now not going to have a hearing at the criminal standard - which is how they've been preparing all those months - it's suddenly going to be the civil standard.'

A spokesman for the Medical Protection Society warned doctors would fight any postponement of their cases until after the new deadline.

The GMC was unable to say how many outstanding cases would be judged on the civil standard, although at any one time, around 100 doctors are awaiting a fitness to practise hearing. A spokesperson said. ‘It is important to remember the standard of proof only becomes an issue when the facts of the case are in dispute – in the majority of cases the doctor has admitted the charge or there is clear evidence of what happened.'

But Dr Krishna Korlipara, a GMC council member and GP in Bolton, said he was disappointed the GMC had pressed ahead with the civil standard after a ‘cosmetic' consultation.

‘It is now up to the doctors who are facing the allegations to argue each and every allegation, if proved, either separately or cumulatively, can lead to suspension or erasure of a doctor.'

GMC: has sparked outrage from medical defence lawyers GMC: has sparked outrage from medical defence lawyers

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