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GPs go forth

GMC 'can't lawfully stop appealing fitness-to-practise tribunal decisions'

The GMC has a 'statutory duty' to continue to appeal fitness-to-practise decisions made by its own tribunal until the Government officially strips it of its right to do so.

This is the message in independent legal advice sought by the GMC from Sir Robert Francis QC, and comes as Government legislation is outstanding to strip the GMC of its right to appeal.

Although the Government made its intention clear in June, it has said it can take approximately 18 months to bring necessary leglislative changes through the parlimentary process.

The decision was based on Professor Sir Norman Williams review into gross negligence manslaughter in medicine, which was sparked by the Hadiza Bawa-Garba case and reported in June.

This review also recommended that - pending the new legislation - the GMC should review its processes for deciding when to appeal MPTS decisions, including considering delegating or referring its right of appeal to the Professional Standards Authority.

But Sir Robert has advised the GMC that it 'would not be lawful' to 'impose a moratorium' on its right of appeal, and the fact that the Government has stated its intention to remove the GMC's right of appeal does not allow it to 'ignore' its 'statutory duties' to pursue such appeals where appropriate.

He also advised that the GMC 'cannot lawfully delegate' appeals considerations to the PSA, or any other body.

However, the GMC said it would make a number of changes to its decision-making process for appeals decisions whilst the legislation was pending.

It said this would include:

In a letter to the House of Commons Health Committee, which outlined the actions, GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: 'This of course remains a developing area and we will continue to evaluate our own processes and how we use our right of appeal as part of our duty to protect the public and uphold public confidence in the profession.

'Alongside this we are engaging with the Department of Health and Social Care on the proposed legislation to ultimately remove this right.'

GP defence organisation the Medical Protection Society said the Government should publish a timeline for legislative change to remove the GMC’s right of appeal. 

Dr Rob Hendry, its medical director, said: ‘We welcome the GMC’s decision to explore whether it would be possible for them to stop appealing cases while we wait for the Government to introduce new legislation.

‘It is now high-time that the Government acts on our call to change and that they publish a timeline for when they plan to introduce these changes sooner rather than later.’

The GMC told Pulse in July that it intended to continue to appeal MPTS fitness-to-practise decisions until the law is changed.

The GMC has only been able to appeal MPTS decisions in the High Court since 2017, but Pulse revealed in March it had already done so on 23 occasions in just 10 months, striking off seven doctors as a result.

GMC appeals overhaul sparked by Bawa-Garba case

The issues have been sparked by the high-profile case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba who was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter over the death of six-year-old Jack Adcock.

The GMC sought her dismissal, but the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) suspended her from the medical register for a year, which was later extended by six months.

The GMC appealed against the decision and in January a High Court ruled that she should be struck off, but Dr Bawa-Garba subsequently took her case to the Court of Appeal and in August won her bid to be reinstated.

The case led to a rapid policy review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare, chaired by Professor Sir Norman Williams.

The review was set up to look at the wider patient safety impact of concerns among healthcare professionals that simple errors could result in prosecution for gross negligence manslaughter.

It reported back in June, saying the GMC’s use of the right of appeal was not excessive, but it recommended that the government should legislate to remove the GMC’s right of appeal, something that the government has subsequently said it will do, although it could take around 18 months to bring forward the necessary legislation, subject to parliamentary time.

It also recommended that ahead of the legislative change, the GMC should review its processes for deciding when to refer a decision of the MPTS, and for the GMC to consider delegating or deferring its right of appeal to the Professional Standards Authority – which oversees the nine health regulators – while carrying out the review.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Azeem Majeed

    I wonder how much the GMC paid Sir Robert Francis for that advice?

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  • AlanAlmond

    This guy is one of the biggest bananas in public life

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  • AlanAlmond

    More of a beatroot actually, being they are close to a turnip, generally ruddy in colour and are often subject to pickling

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  • So do they have to appeal every decision? Or do they make a choice? If it’s every decision, then what’s the points of having the panel? If it’s not, then they shouldn’t have appealed against dr BG because she had been scapegoated and they should be condemned

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  • One detected the establishment shielding themselves, they will continue to scapegoat the nearest professional to be close to any symptom of a failing service.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Ha ha ha
    Hard , old habit to rid . I have said many times that the superhero complex of GMC will never stop as long as the law allows it to carry on such behaviour. Where is the government? Oh , I have forgotten we are having a lame duck government lost in the mist of Brexit.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    18 months for the legislative process? That's a lie. Remember the BSE panic? They banned beef on the bone overnight.

    GMC and government work together as they HATE the independence doctors have.

    Sorry colleagues, you have to either retire or emigrate to avoid this pile of excrement.

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  • Well said Azeem!

    Isn't it interesting how the GMC are going about rebuilding trust with the profession they regulate?

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  • They were only following orders....Sorry not an adequate excuse.

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    I wonder how much the GMC paid Sir Robert Francis for that advice?

    Sorry Guys I think you mean how much of our subscription money did they pay for this ....

    Come on BMA/RCGP wake up ...
    Hunts promise of state indemnity ????
    GMC to be paid for by state ???
    They clearly hold Doctors in contempt and distrust
    Why bother with GMC
    Why not just have the tribunal alone ?

    GMC why are you not holding ministers trusts and managers to account if you truly are guardians of patient safety??

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