This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Appeals court tells GMC to show 'restraint' as it quashes bid to sanction doctor

The Court of Appeal has quashed another High Court ruling in favour of the GMC seeking stricter sanctions for a doctor following a fitness-to-practise tribunal.

Handing down the judgment, the judge further suggested the GMC should exercise more 'restraint' when seeking to strengthen sanctions via the courts.

Although the Government has said it will remove the GMC's right to bring Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS) decisions to the High Court to be overturned, the GMC has said it intends to continue doing so until legislation is changed.

Today's case, which follows the Court of Appeal's high-profile ruling to reinstate struck-off junior doctor Hadiza Bawa-Garba last month, focused on paediatric locum Dr Hemmay Raychaudhuri.

Dr Raychaudhuri was found to have completed a medical examination form for a five-month-old baby without having performed an exam, while working in the A&E at Royal Berkshire Hospital in 2014.

The MPTS initially found that his actions ‘were not such that public confidence in the profession would be undermined’ if his fitness to practise was not found to be impaired and therefore decided to only impose a warning.

But the GMC said the MPTS ‘should have found that the appellant’s fitness to practise was impaired’ and successfully overruled the decision in the High Court, with the judge referring the case back to the MPTS to consider ‘the appropriate sanction’.

According to the Medical Act, if a doctor’s fitness to practice is found to be impaired, doctors can face suspension or erasure from the medical register.

But appeal judges quashed the High Court ruling today, expressing ‘regret that it was brought’.

Lord Justice Bean said in the judgment that the MPTS ‘were well placed to make an evaluative judgment of the nuances of how the various individuals had interacted and that judgment should have been accorded great weight, not only by the court but by the GMC in deciding whether to bring an appeal at all’.

He added: ‘The discretion given by section 40A(3) to appeal against any decision which the GMC consider not sufficient for the protection of the public is a wide one, but in my view it is a discretion to be exercised with restraint where it involves a challenge to a finding of fact in the practitioner’s favour.’

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced in June that the GMC would be stripped of its right to appeal fitness-to-practice decisions, following the Government’s ‘rapid review’ into medical gross negligence manslaughter.

But the GMC later confirmed to Pulse that it is not intending to halt appeals against its own fitness-to-practise tribunal until the law is changed.

And Pulse revealed in March that 23 GMC appeals brought to date had all sought stricter sanctions, or to block a doctor from being registered to practise in the UK, while no appeal was for more lenient treatment.

Medical Defence Union head of advisory services Dr Caroline Fryar said: ‘Doctors are profoundly affected by fitness-to-practise proceedings and, understandably, considerably relieved to learn the tribunal has made a finding in their favour.

‘Most doctors don’t understand they are still in peril of having this finding appealed and many think this is unfair. This case addressed an important point of principle… and we are pleased the appeal was successful.’

A GMC spokesperson said: ‘We accept the judgment of the Court of Appeal and welcome the clarification that the High Court did have jurisdiction to hear our appeal. 

‘We will reflect on the decision and the judges’ full comments, as we do in all cases.’

Readers' comments (36)

  • Vinci Ho

    ‘We will reflect on the decision and the judges’ full comments, as we do in all cases.’
    Are we really to believe that GMC is serious about this ?
    What is the ‘new advice’ for us to understand the word ‘reflect’ as far as appraisal is concerned?
    Ironic , isn’t it ?
    Fundamentally, there is a marked difference in the interpretation of ‘fitness to practise ‘ between MPTS and GMC on numerous occasions. You wonder why? Remember, this is a pattern that keeps repeating itself. The two regulatory bodies are , in essence, fighting to discredit each other . So what is the endgame here ?
    As being alluded in previous comments , this cannot prevent conspiracy theorists from speculating that certain group was ‘gaining’ out of this chaos . After all , demeanour of GMC is never short of belligerence , bigotry and brutality .
    In addition to the failure in providing explanations for the hefty casualties through suicide during previous FTP proceedings , there is sufficient ground to call for an independent inquiry .

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • An indecent enquiry is the best way forward,the relationship between the medical profession and the gmc is broken,something needs to be done to stop this becoming terminal,if it isn’t already.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Maverick

    Just leave...

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Are the CMC law unto themselves?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It sounds like a nexus
    You scratch my back and I shall scratch yours
    The people benigifitting are solicitors, barristers and Wc and the GMC
    It’s simple maths isn’t it.
    An independent enquiry will reveal a lot more than what appears on the surface!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "It sounds like a nexus "
    if it looks like s**t and smells like s**t,it is s**t!!!
    amongst the people benefitting-dont forget the GMC experts/appraisers from our own profession-lower than vermin.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • So much for the GMC telling us to reflect when they have not led by example. The profession has lost faith in the organisation. It is biased and corrupt.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Council of Despair

    I'm trying to look at things from the GMC's perspective - they have a duty to protect patients but are they going about this in the right way?

    - Keeping the public happy should not be the GMC's objective, for example, I'm sure some members of the public want Doctors who upset them to be put in front of a firing squad but that would not be legal or morally correct. In the same token - what is Public Confidence? The GMC says it wants to maintain public confidence but they haven't defined it and how do you measure it? The vote on Brexit and some of the comments from the public in the media such as the Daily Mail make it clear that some members of the public are at best ignorant and at worse racist - so if those members of the public decide that they don't like foreign doctors - should the GMC for 'public confidence' be harsher on foreign doctors? This is effectively the GMC's argument that they want to maintain 'Public Confidence' and it is a weak argument as they - the GMC have not said what public confidence means.

    - The expectation by professionals and it appears even by the government is that the GMC should be impartial, balanced and fair and be prepared to make thoughtful decisions that can be backed up with sound logic and arguments i.e. one would expect the GMC to make decisions that make you think - 'that was a reasoned, logical, well thought up, even evidenced argument that the GMC has made'. It appears that the GMC is not doing this at present and even worse than that they don't have insight into the fact that their decision making doesn't make sense and alienates professionals and even the state. The GMC may not care about this as they feel their main prerogative is to protect patients BUT they also have a duty of care to doctors and equally to look at educating and supporting doctors. If they can't see that their actions are actually alienating doctors and they haven't actually demonstrated that they have gained public confidence then this is worrying. Overall this reflects a complete failure of leadership in the GMC.

    The GMC is basically saying - 'we are going to do what we think is right, but we are not prepared to explain our decision making or provide any sound evidence, and we really don't care what doctors, the state care and we are not going to even evaluate if we have gained public confidence'. It's an odd state of affairs and I don't see how the GMC can continue on this track? do you?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • GMC is not alone. I was warned by NHSE to mind my own business as I agreed to allow a suspended GP to retrain at my Practice. The GP colleague had been suspended following a complaint by NHSE it seems and I persisted. So I was punished with a decline in my weighted list by 200 patient although list size fell by only 7.
    Glad all the same, the GP colleague is back at work having regained his license although he preferred to move out of Medway and Kent to preserve his sanity.
    These people behave like stalkers- they need to be restrained in some way - I'll invite ideas how:)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Council of Despair

    This is an interesting statement

    And Pulse revealed in March that 23 GMC appeals brought to date had all sought stricter sanctions, or to block a doctor from being registered to practise in the UK, while no appeal was for more lenient treatment.

    As I'm sure that I read a statement from either Stephenson or Massey that claimed that the GMC had also appealed decisions they felt were too harsh? I'm sure this is worth looking into as if it is the case that the GMC is seeking tougher sanctions all the time it indicates their (the GMC's) thinking re sanctions. I'm not saying they are right or wrong but it suggests that the GMC views the sanctions on doctors as too soft. This will be useful for young doctors to know if they are contemplating a career in the UK.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say