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BMA calls for GMC to lose right to appeal tribunal decisions

The BMA is calling for the GMC to lose its right to appeal decisions reached by its own fitness to practise tribunal service.

Responding to the Government's rapid reivew into gross negligence manslaughter (GNM) charges in healthcare, the BMA said it was 'deeply concerned' about the regulator's right to appeal Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) rulings in court - a right it gained just over two years ago.

The BMA also called for legal protection for doctors' written reflections, which would mean the GMC could never demand access to the learning tool.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered the review into use of manslaughter charges against doctors following the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba - who was struck off the medical register following a GMC High Court appeal.

Further, in order to limit the number of cases and increase the safety of practising doctors, the BMA has called for the Director of Public Prosecutions to have to 'personally authorise' all prosecutions involving accusations of GNM in a healthcare setting, as well as for a special GNM police unit to be set up to investigate all such cases.

The BMA's submission said: ‘The BMA has consistently opposed and remains deeply concerned about the right of the GMC to appeal against fitness to practise decisions.

‘We continue to believe that this right risks undermining doctors’ confidence in the independence and fairness of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

‘Fitness to practise processes are very stressful for doctors and the perception of a risk of double jeopardy can only exacerbate this problem.’

The BMA added that while the GMC has 'provided assurances' that it will 'never require access to a doctor’s reflection documents', they 'believe that it is necessary to amend section 35A (1A) of the Medical Act 1983 which currently allows the GMC to compel disclosure'.

This comes as the BMA is talks with the GMC about updates to written reflection guidance amid concerns raised by doctors.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Clearly there’s been huge concern raised by the profession about the GMC’s action in appealing the panel’s decision. Even the GMC itself has questioned whether it should have that role, and it is something that we believe the Williams review could make recommendation on, recognising the real anxieties and worries that, not just GPs, but all of the profession has about this issue.’

‘Ultimately we want to ensure that doctors have confidence that they won’t become the victims of a system that is unsafe if they are doing their level best to provide patients with the best possible care. No doctor goes to work wanting to make mistakes or to cause errors or harm, and we need to ensure that we have a system that genuinely learns from each and every incident that takes place and doesn’t seek to scapegoat individual doctors.’

The Government's GNM in healthcare review, led by Sir Norman Williams, is looking at where and how the line is drawn between GNM and negligence; and what processes are used before initiating a prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter.

The Medical Protection Society (MPS), which represents Dr Bawa-Garba, has called for an ‘urgent review’ of the GMC’s right to appeal decisions made by its own tribunal.

This follows Pulse's revelation that seven doctors have been struck off after GMC appealed MPTS rulings since the first appeal case was heard in the High Court last May.

The GMC gained the right to appeal MPTS decisions at the end of 2015, but the first case was only heard last May as the High Court wanted it heard by senior judges. As of last month, the GMC had launched 23 appeals in total, although not all were in relation to having a doctor struck off.

BMA’s recommendations to the Sir Norman Williams review:

  • That any GNM cases in healthcare are referred only after consultation with the Chief Coroner.
  • That a national police unit is established to investigate GNM cases in healthcare.
  • The test for bringing a prosecution is a difficult balancing act and to introduce consistency in a relatively small number of cases, it should be for the Director of Public Prosecutions to personally authorise all prosecutions involving accusations of GNM in a healthcare setting.
  • That only experts who are in active clinical practice and hold a licence to practise are instructed in GNM cases.
  • That it should be compulsory for all expert witnesses to go through core training including report writing, courtroom skills, cross examination and criminal law and procedure.
  • That a mandatory human factors training programme is developed for everyone involved in the prosecution process for GNM in healthcare.
  • That the exception reporting process is standardised, extended to all doctors and a national database for exception reports is established so that data can be properly analysed and used to improve training and working experiences for doctors and outcomes for patients.
  • That legal protection is provided to reflections in all education and training documents.
  • That Section 35A (1A) of the Medical Act 1983 is amended so it excludes information provided for the sole purpose of education and training.
  • That the GMC should lose its right to appeal Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) decisions.

Source: BMA

Readers' comments (6)

  • The BMA haven't asked for immunity from prosecution over death by natural causes which is what we need. Clever lawyers/QCs will find work-around loopholes to the guidelines they are given, it is what they are paid to do!

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  • A move in the right direction BMA but it should go further. The GMC should not waste it's resources looking at non medical matters to avoid double jeopardy reducing the doctor's basic human rights. We have all lost faith in the empire building GMC. All expert witness or GMC regulators should do at least 6 sessions so the rules they write will not disproportionately impact on clinicians and they are in touch with the real world.

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  • Vinci Ho

    It is always about the ‘war’ between GMC and MPTS

    Quoted from Wikipedia:
    One of the recommendations in the fifth report of The Shipman Inquiry, which was published in December 2004, was for the adjudication stage of fitness to practise procedures to be undertaken by a body that is independent of the General Medical Council (GMC).[1] In 2007 the UK Government released a white paper on The Regulation of Health Professionals.[2] In late 2010 the Department of Health consulted on plans to create a body that was separate from the health regulators, to adjudicate on fitness to practise matters.[3] On 2 December 2010, the government announced that they had decided not to proceed with an Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA).[4]

    In July 2011, the GMC approved proposals to separate its presentation of fitness to practise cases from their adjudication. The adjudication would become the responsibility of a new body, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.[5]

    In June 2012 the MPTS assumed responsibility for medical tribunals, with their panels given the power to remove or suspend a doctor’s ability to work within the UK.[6] It was expected that the service would handle some 340 doctors’ fitness-to-practise hearings a year.[7] The MTPS was located in a dedicated hearing centre in Manchester which has 16 hearing rooms.[8]

    There were changes in the records kept, with the use of digital recordings, instead of shorthand writers. Specialist advisers were used less often, only in exceptional circumstances.[9]

    In March 2015, changes to the Medical Act mean that the GMC gained the ability to appeal against decisions made by the MPTS.[10]

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  • "Please stop being quite so nasty to our Doctors".

    "Get out and stop wasting my time".

    "Oh. Well then I'll show myself out. Thank you ever so much".

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  • There needs to be legal protection for Drs reflections from both GMC AND the legal profession as per the airline industry. Otherwise this will not fly.

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  • Max DIGITAL DOC Headroom

    Who exactly has the final say on this??
    Jeremy Hunt??

    Why don't the BMA and the Royal Colleges
    ask and make their calls together
    I am sure everyone is in agreement

    Oh great Jeremy has called for a review
    AND washed his hands of everything in the interim...

    Keep a low profile
    it will all soon go away

    lets all sign another petition
    100 000 needed
    seems that is the only way to get anything done these days..
    or is that the bureaucratic wall used to avoid dealing with issues

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