This site is intended for health professionals only

GMC launches new tribunal service to handle fitness to practise hearings

The GMC has officially transferred responsibility for all its fitness to practise cases to a new independent tribunal service.

The new Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service is part of the GMC, but is operationally separate from the regulator’s complaint handling, investigation and case presentation.

Parliament approved the establishment of the MPTS in 2011 after the government’s decision not to proceed with the establishment of the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA) in 2010.

The GMC said the service, which will be based in a dedicated centre in Manchester, represented the biggest overhaul of fitness to practise procedures in 150 years.

The MPTS will report annually to parliament and twice-yearly to the GMC, and will be led by an independently-appointed chair, His Honour Judge David Pearl, who will be responsible for appointing, training, appraising and mentoring MPTS panelists and legal assessors.

The service’s work will be overseen by a Committee, made up of the MPTS Chair and two further members, one medical and one lay, drawn from a pool of experienced panelists.

In the most serious cases, MPTS panels will have the power to remove or suspend a doctor from the medical register or place restrictions on their practise.

They can also take early action to ensure patient safety by considering cases before a full fitness to practise hearing, where it may be appropriate to place restrictions on a doctor’s practise immediately or suspend their practice while investigations proceed.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘The launch of the MPTS is the biggest change to doctors’ fitness to practise hearings for more than 150 years.

‘We hope that the MPTS will strengthen professional and public confidence that our hearings are impartial, fair and transparent – the fact that the service is led by a judicial figure who has a direct line to Parliament should provide that assurance.’

David Pearl, chair of MPTS, said: ‘Establishing the MPTS assures those who come into our processes that we are independent of investigations into doctors’ fitness to practise, that the appointment of panelists for hearings is separate and that all decisions are made completely impartially.

‘One of my earliest priorities is to make improvements to the way that panelists are trained and performance managed through regular appraisal and quality assurance, which will bolster the quality of decision making.’