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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)

  • Cobblers. I applied to come off the register last year and despite paying into the GMC for 39 years, they had the cheek to ask me for £10 as well - greedy swine.

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  • and still people agree to be ROs and appraisers for this organisationm - Uncle Toms all of them

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  • @Bulldog:
    GMC, Good Medical Practice, Domain 4: 64
    "If someone you have contact with in your professional role asks for your registered name and/or GMC reference number, you must give this information to them."
    Would you like to ask them?

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  • Cobblers

    Philtrum!! Really nice to hear from you. No longer DN-UK (their loss) and GP-UK is quiet recently.

    39 years this year too. No longer. GMC can whistle.

    Keep well.

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  • Yet again I’m wondering who exactly does Charlie Massey answer to?
    Secondly, this is what happens when the regulator is not a majority of actual professionals working in the profession.
    Why are we paying the fees?

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  • Re: Council of Despair : the GMC does not need to Appeal an MPTS decision if it thinks the sanction too light, as the GMC can 'lighten' a sanction without need to seek permission or appeal to any other body. They just seem to have difficulty with imposing a harsher sanction without an appeal (since it puts them on shaky legal ground).
    I must be missing something here though: if the doctor completed a form dishonestly, he is NOT fit to practice, unless it was due to some accident and not deliberately dishonest?
    We are not told this.
    At previous cases, GMC has been happy to let dishonest doctors continue to practice, even when persisting on fraud for several years and blaming this on a later action by another person, an excuse which requires you believe in time travel!

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  • The most extraordinary paradox is that the GMC is contesting the rulings of its own tribunal service. This says two things: (1) it does not trust the MPTS and (2) as it only appears to contest MPTS rulings which it deems too lenient, it is biased. Given that it is also prepared to invoke the courts it would appear that doctors are at risk of triple jeopardy. This has to stop.

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  • "general medical doctor's persecutor council" GMDPC. may be more appropriate name for them.
    is this a significant event to be reported to gmc for those who made decision?

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  • Dame Janet Smith threatened (after the Shipman Enquiry) to close the GMC down for its failure to protect the public (no mention of outliers). The GMC apparatchiks panicked at the concept of loosing their lucrative and comfortable existence and rapidly took control of proposed doctors assessment proposals (DOH and the Medical Colleges were supposed to be partners in the process). The GMC then used the ‘delegated / secondary’ legislation (under the Medical Act) in legal terminology, in a manner which ‘is neither consistent nor scientific’ and for the GMC’s own ends. As has been stated in Blackstones Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) - its tyranny when ‘the right of making and enforcing the laws is vested in the same man, or the same body of men’. This is historically and notoriously so with delegated legislation. It frequently leads to injustice and oppression and brings all concerned, including the law, into disrepute.

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  • May I suggest a change of the GMC's corporate mission statement to--
    "Hounding doctors, Protecting ourselves" .
    Let's face it their attempts to overrule the MPTS has nothing to do with protecting patients. In addition the legal fees wasted trying to have MPTS rulings overturned by the High court are being paid through our membership subscriptions. I paid my last one in January and thanks to retirement shall not be renewing it.Like Philtum, I will not pay to have my name taken off the register either.
    I feel there needs to be a nationwide witholding of subsciptions until the GMC proves itself to be a truly independent regulator "Supporting doctors,Protecting patients".

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