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GPs face ‘double jeopardy’ under new GMC power to appeal tribunal decisions

The GMC has been given a new power allowing it to challenge decisions made by the independent panel that presides over doctors’ fitness-to-practise (FTP) cases, which will increase the risk of GPs facing two trials for the same complaint.

Landmark changes to the Medical Act mean the GMC will now be able to appeal FTP decisions to the High Court of Justice in England and the devolved nations. 

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), the body which makes the independent FTP decisions, has also been placed on a statuary footing following the changes made to the law.

But the GPC has said that the GMC’s new powers ‘puts GPs at risk of double jeopardy.’ 

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey, said: ‘When GPs feel increasingly under pressure from an increasingly oppressive performance management and regulatory structure and rising complaints culture, this move by the GMC to put doctors at risk of double jeopardy will just further undermine their morale.’

However, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC added that the new law ‘strengthens the GMC’s role as a patient safety organisation.’

Mr Dickson said: ’The new right of appeal and the establishment of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service as a statutory body are huge strides in UK professional regulation. 

’This will help us to make sure doctors receive the support they require and patients receive high quality care. The new law underlines the separation of our investigations from the tribunal service and thereby strengthen our role as a patient safety organisation.’ 

It comes after Pulse reported that only one anonymous GMC complaint has led to a sanction imposed on a doctor in the past two years.