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Legal challenge to proof standard

A medical defence body is threatening to take the GMC to a judicial review over its plans to bring in a civil standard of proof to determine whether a doctor is fit to practise.

The GMC decided at its last council meeting to press ahead with changing its rules to bring in a 'flexibly applied' civil standard of proof by next April.GPs and medicolegal experts are furious that the GMC agreed to go ahead with the controversial move, in line with the Government's forthcoming white paper, before consulting the profession. They are calling for the GMC to set out exactly how the procedures will work in practice. Dr Hugh Stewart, medicolegal adviser at the Medical Defence Union, said: 'Our main concern is that it is put out to full consultation. If that does not happen and there is any unfairness to our members we would take it to judicial review.'And the Medical Protection Society said it would be 'fearless in challenging the GMC's processes where our members are at risk of unfair treatment.'Dr Stewart also questioned how the sliding scale – where a higher standard of proof is used in cases in which a GP could lose their registration – would work if a GP faced multiple charges at the GMC.'If you have two charges of a different nature based on the same facts it could potentially be a very confusing situation where the facts are proved in relation to one allegation and not the other,' he said.The GMC said it was currently in the early stages of developing its guidance on the civil standard and would consult doctors over the summer when it will flesh out its plans.

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