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GPs face double jeopardy under ‘cruel’ GMC tribunal plans

By Laura Passi

The new tribunal service that will run fitness to practice cases will not be independent enough from the GMC, say medical defence experts.

The General Medical Council is consulting on proposals for a new Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, which in future would take over the running of fitness to practise cases. But the plans do not go far enough, say the Medical Defence Union.

Dr Catherine Wills, deputy head of the MDU's advisory department, said it welcomed the move towards greater independence for the MPTS, but that there was a fundamental flaw in the way it would be set up.

'At the moment, the GMC acts as investigator, prosecutor and judge so it is like the police, the CPS and the judiciary all rolled into one. Obviously this has to change and we are pleased to see that the GMC is working towards a separation.'

'However, we don't think the GMC's proposals go far enough and we think there needs to be greater safeguards to ensure tribunals that decide on a doctor's fitness to practise are completely independent of the GMC.'

Dr Wills said GMC powers to appeal against MPTS decisions would put doctors in a very difficult position and should be removed.

'We believe this would create a cruel element of double jeopardy in which doctors who have been exonerated by a tribunal then have to wait to find out if either the GMC or CHRE wanted to appeal the decision.'

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said they would consider the MDU comments 'carefully'.

'In the course of the consultation we have heard a range of views on our proposals to separate our investigation and adjudication functions, following the Government's decision not to proceed with OHPA. We will now be carefully considering all the feedback and will report on our proposed next steps shortly.'

Niall Dickson