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GPs to get lawyers at PCT hearings

GPs have won the right to legal representation and to cross-examine witnesses during PCT complaints hearings after a landmark High Court ruling, writes Helen Crump.

A judge last week ruled in favour of two suspended GPs who argued they were being denied 'natural justice' during hearings to determine whether they be removed from their PCTs' performers lists. The PCTs had followed DoH guidelines, which state only that GPs should be given the opportunity to put their case at an oral hearing.

Supporting the GPs' judicial review, Mr Justice Toulson said the rules had to be reconsidered, stating that the matter was 'manifestly of importance to doctors and to the public'.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC negotiator, said PCTs were increasingly using a 'very legal approach' to performance hearings. He said: 'GPs find themselves in a very difficult situation without legal representation. This can actually be the difference between a livelihood and no livelihood.' Dr Vautrey added: 'While it might add increased complexity to the situation, it's right for GPs to have appropriate support.'

Neil Garnham QC, representing Dr Jayanti Kumar Ghosh of Blyth, Northumberland and a GP in Merseyside known only as 'Dr S', said the PCTs' policies were too rigidly imposed.

Speaking in court, Department of Health barrister Jason Copell said the ruling could lead to greater complexity in hearings against doctors.

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