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Independents' Day

GMC is using right to appeal tribunal decisions 'appropriately', says chief

The GMC has defended its decision to take its own tribunal to the High Court, saying its track record proves it is using the right to appeal 'appropriately'.

The regulator has been successful in 80% of appeals against the Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service since obtaining the right in 2015, and in 100% of appeals regarding fitness to practise.

Chief executive Charley Massey argued, in a letter to House of Commons health committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston, that 'this implies we are using our right of appeal appropriately'.

This comes as the High Court ruled in favour of the GMC's appeal against the MPTS decision not to strike off Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba despite her being convicted of manslaughter by a Crown Court.

The letter, which comes in response to a list of clarifications requested by Dr Wollaston, also set out that the GMC does not pursue appeals unless there is ongoing concern about a doctor's fitness to practise.

Mr Massey said: 'If these concerns are not evident, we do not take such an appeal forward.'

The case has sparked outrage amid doctors who felt Dr Bawa-Garba's erasure from the medical register was unfair in light of a large number of systemic failures at the trust when patient Jack Adcock died whilst under Dr Bawa-Garba's care.

But Mr Massey went on to clarify that the GMC did take into account 'wider system pressures' as a factor but that - as in the case of Dr Bawa-Garba - it was 'important to note that convictions for gross negligence manslaughter are not the result of everyday mistakes'.

He added: 'It is regrettable that in the wider reporting of this specific case, the two have often been conflated.'

Dr Wollaston had asked the GMC to clarify 'what considerations the GMC takes into account when deciding that an appeal against and MPTS decision is merited'.

In response to the 'great deal of concern' from medical professionals in the wake of the Dr Bawa-Garba case, Dr Wollaston also asked Mr Massey to clarify the GMC's 'position on reflective practice, and in particular its implications for possible criminal or fitness to pratise cases'.

She also asked 'how the GMC is ensuring that the vital role of reflective practice in ensuring patient safety is maintained'.

Dr Bawa-Garba’s e-portfolio reflections were not used against her in court, her medical defence organisation has said, despite ‘wide misreporting’ that they were.

But Pulse has learned that some reflections from Dr Bawa-Garba - but not from her e-portfolio - were included in evidence presented to the trial, although it is unclear quite how much of an influence this played in the final manslaughter verdict.

Mr Massey said that although the GMC 'never asks doctors to provide their reflective statements if we are investigating a concern', e-portfolios are not subject to legal privilege under UK criminal law and 'as a result, these documents might be requested by a court if it is considered that they are relevant to the matters to be determined in the case'.

He added: 'We are committed to ensuring the vital role of reflective practice in ensuring patient safety is not just maintained, but enhanced. I appreciate that some doctors have concerns about the role that it could have in legal or other proceedings against them.

'With this in mind, I publicly reaffirmed last week our commitment, as part of a wider discussion with the BMA, that we will never ask doctors to provide their reflective statements if investigating concerns about them. In partnership with the BMA, Royal Colleges and others we will be taking steps to ensure this understanding is fully embedded across the profession.'

The GMC is set to review how gross negligence manslaughter is applied to medical practice following doctors’ concerns after the succesful appeal.

The review will bring together health professional leaders, defence bodies, patients and legal and criminal justice experts from across the UK, and will focus on doctors’ reflections and support for doctors in raising concerns.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has also announced a rapid review into the application of gross negligence manslaughter charges in medicine following the case, due to report in April.


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Readers' comments (31)

  • Why have a Tribunal if you are constantly going to question its decisions.

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  • The GMC, as usual, plays with words to hide from the truth. While, strictly speaking, it is true to say that the GMC does not ask doctors to provide their reflective statements if they are investigating a concern, it nevertheless expects them to do so voluntarily and punishes them if they do not. If Dr Bawa-Garba had NOT provided her open reflections in her appraisal e-portfolio, the GMC would have argued that she was unfit to practice because she had not shown evidence of remediation and lacked insight. Hung if you do, hung if you don't.

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  • Council of Despair

    I think the prevailing view is that the original verdict was wrong and if the GMC are going to just rubber stamp court decisions then why should the GMC exist? - just let the courts make the decision. Also why bother having the MPTS?

    I think the issue is being judged via your peers vs judged by a lay jury as discussed in this article;

    the GMC should know better and they have effectively talked themselves out of their own existance - they are simply no longer relevant if they can not 'think' about the decisions they are making.

    However, if the prevailing view is that we have to be judged by lay persons in future then we are going to run out of doctors - I'm not sure that the GMC understands that and what that will mean for safety.

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  • Council of Despair

    I would also add that Massey is out of his depth and it looks like the GMC is trying to ride this out. The usual tactic is by setting up a review, shifting the rationale (we are just testing the process), justifying process. We've seen this all before with the CQC, NHSE, HEE, doh eg 'more doctors than ever, spending more money on the NHS than ever ...'

    This is a consequence of a politically motivated system of quangoes headed by hand-picked enablers.

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  • Hang you head in shame and resign. You have destroyed careers, denigrated the profession and demoralised future generations of hopeful medics. You have also abused power to undermine the authority of the Medical Tribunal which puts into question it's very existence.
    Please save us all this BS about exercising your rights. We in the medical profession also have a right to work without fear and with dignity !

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  • So Pulse has found out Mr Massey has lied. Some evidence from her e-portfolio were used in the trial.
    The GMC continunes to justify itself and wants to put all of us at risk. I wonder who regulates a lying regulator. Sorry GMC, we have lost faith in you. Everyone will now practice and reflect defensively.

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  • Massey at the DOH....

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  • I am yet to find any example like this anywhere else in the world.

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  • Vinci Ho

    As I wrote before , you have to understand the history between GMC and MPTS before you can see why GMC would not ‘waste’ the opportunity to challenge a MPTS’ decision.
    GMC bascially refused to be labelled as accountable to all these ‘mishaps’ happened in the past including these 100 odd numbers of doctors died during FTP proceedings

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