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GMC to continue appealing FTP decisions until legislation is changed

Exclusive The GMC is not intending to halt appeals against its own fitness-to-practise tribunal until the law is changed, Pulse has learned.

The doctor regulator’s defiant stance comes as health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he will remove its right to appeal Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS) rulings.

But GP defence organisations have warned that the legislative process required to enable the change – repealing section 40A of the 1983 Medical Act 1983 – could be lengthy.

In the meantime, the GMC has been successful in striking off yet another doctor via a High Court appeal, taking the total number to eight since it began bringing appeals just over one year ago, Pulse can reveal.

And the GMC is still pursuing three ongoing appeals against MPTS decisions which have yet to be heard in the High Court.

The regulator has regularly appealed against MPTS decisions since gaining the right to do so, all of which either sought to block a doctor from practising or other, stricter sanctions.

A GMC spokesperson said: ‘Our appeals have been upheld in 16 out of 18 cases heard by the courts. We believe our actions have provided greater public safety and maintained public confidence in the profession through these rulings, all but one of which involved sexual misconduct or dishonesty.

‘We will continue to follow the law and to appeal in cases where the tribunal’s decision is insufficient to protect the public.’

Medical Protection Society medical director Rob Hendry said: ‘The Government has accepted Sir Norman Williams’ conclusion that the GMC losing its right of appeal over decisions made by the MPTS would not be detrimental to the safeguards that are in place to protect patient safety. This is because the Professional Standards Authority has a near duplicate right of appeal.’

He said the MPS has ‘urged the Government to set out a clear timeframe for change and to bring forward the legislation that will enable the removal of the GMC’s power to appeal as quickly as possible’.

But he added: ‘In the meantime, we believe it would make a significant step towards re-building trust with the profession if the GMC were to cease appealing MPTS decisions while we await the relevant legislative changes.’

A BMA spokesperson said: ‘The BMA has long held the belief that the GMC should not be able to appeal fitness-to-practise decisions, and so we were glad when the Williams Review into gross negligence manslaughter listened to our concerns and recommended that this right be withdrawn.

‘We urge the Government to now move swiftly to implement the review’s recommendations, which the secretary of state for health and social care accepted in full, to prevent the GMC continuing this practice.’

Removing the GMC’s ability to appeal MPTS rulings was one of a number of actions the Department of Health and Social Care said it would take following its ‘rapid review’ into medical gross negligence manslaughter launched after the controversial Bawa-Garba ruling in January.

But, in a move criticised by the GMC as well as the BMA, the DHSC stopped short of offering legal protection to stop courts requesting doctors’ written reflections.

Mr Hunt has also said that GPs, alongside ambulance trusts, ‘will be the next focus for reviewing deaths to help understand and tackle patient safety issues’.