BMA leaders have called on the GMC to rethink plans to move all fitness to practise panel hearings to Manchester.
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul told Pulse that the GMC’s proposal to stop fitness to practise hearings in London would be too restrictive and could potentially damage the process.
Dr Nagpaul said: ‘It’s important for there to be a geographical choice both for GPs involved as well as those sitting on panels. By only having hearings in Manchester it might influence the willingness of potential panel members to take part and this will narrow the range of panellists.’
His comments echo the official BMA response to the GMC consultation on proposals that include creating a new, discrete Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.
Though it backed the new service, the BMA warned that the loss of a fitness to practise centre in the capital would cause difficulties for doctors in and around London, and it questioned how proceedings could be speeded up if the six hearing rooms in London were no longer used.
The BMA also expressed concern about the proposed removal of independent legal assessors from tribunal cases and their replacement with legally qualified chairs. While the BMA accepted that qualified chairs might be appropriate for complex cases, it argued that more straightforward cases should continue to be chaired as they are now.
At present, chairs can be medical or non-medical. A legal assessor sits with each panel and advises on points of law and fact. The BMA called on the GMC to develop criteria for deciding when legally qualified chairs should be appointed.
The GMC’s proposals were developed after the Government’s decision not to proceed with an Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator, which would have taken over its adjudication function.