GMC Lawyers: Legal Advice for Doctors in GMC Investigations, Tribunals & Hearings
Clifford Johnston & Co has a team of GMC Lawyers who have the experience and knowledge to guide you through GMC investigations and proceedings. We pride ourselves on our client care, attention to detail and pragmatic approach.
We understand the anxiety and distress that a referral to the GMC may cause you. We know that professional disciplinary proceedings can have life changing consequences in terms of reputation and your ability to practise.
Although we are based in Stockport and Manchester, our GMC Defence Solicitors can represent doctors across the UK.
Fitness to Practice GMC Investigations
The GMC will investigate a doctor if they receive a referral which calls that doctor’s 'fitness to practise' into question.
A doctor’s fitness to practise may be found to be impaired because of any, or all, of the following:
- Misconduct (professional or personal).
- Deficient professional performance.
- Physical or mental ill health.
- A criminal conviction or caution.
- Not having the necessary knowledge of English to safely practise medicine in the UK.
- A determination by another regulatory body either in the UK or overseas.
On receipt of a referral about a doctor, the GMC will consider if the concern raises a question of impairment.
The GMC will make provisional enquiries and may then:
- conclude the matter at the triage stage.
- refer the matter for investigation and a decision by the Case Examiners, or
- refer it direct to a Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPT) for adjudication.
If you have been referred to the GMC, it is vital that you seek specialist legal advice from a GMC Lawyer immediately. Many cases can be resolved at an early stage provided that the correct tactical decisions are taken as well as carefully drafted formal responses.
You will be informed in writing by the GMC that a complaint has been made and you will be invited to respond. A response is not mandatory, but it is advisable to seek advice from a specialist GMC Lawyer at this stage.
The GMC, dependent on the circumstances of the case, will then obtain different types of evidence. This may include; medical records, witness statements from the complainant/employer/colleagues, expert reports and assessments of your performance or health and knowledge of the English language.
The GMC will investigate cases to assess whether they should be referred to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.
The GMC will then write to you (known as a rule 7 letter) setting out the allegations made in the complaint and asking you to comment. You will be given 28 days to respond to this letter. Doctors should, as per paragraph 23a of the Good Medical Practice, cooperate with investigations conducted by the GMC.
We strongly advise you to seek specialist legal advice from a GMC Lawyer at this stage if you haven’t already done so. The GMC expects doctors to show insight and reflection and show that they have acted to remedy any deficiencies. Such insight and remediation often results in a better outcome.
The case and the evidence will then be considered by two Case Examiners; one medical and one lay member.
The Case Examiners will decide whether to:
- conclude the case by taking no action.
- offer a warning.
- agree undertakings with you (for example practising under supervision or restricting areas of practice).
- refer the matter to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service for a fitness to practise hearing.
GMC Interim Orders Panel
The Interim Orders Tribunal (IOT) may suspend, or impose conditions upon, a doctor’s registration on an interim basis pending completion of the investigation and/or hearing of the case. These hearings will usually be heard in private and will only be imposed where it is ‘necessary for the protection of members of the public or is otherwise in the public interest, or is in the interests of a fully registered person’.
The IOT may impose an interim order for an initial period of up to 18 months. Any interim order is subject to periodic review; it must be reviewed within six months of the order being made, and thereafter usually every six months. The doctor may, after three months, request an earlier review. An order may be reviewed whenever new evidence relevant to the order becomes available which suggests that the order ought to be reviewed.
Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS)
Once a case has been referred to the MPTS to arrange a hearing, the registrar may carry out further investigations to fully prepare the case for hearing.
You will be invited to take part in the GMC’s pre-hearing processes which includes the setting of a timetable for disclosure and a listing window for the hearing.
A MPTS panel is made up of at least one lay member and one medical tribunal member, and a chair, who may be a legally qualified chair.
The GMC will present evidence and make submissions relating to any allegation(s) in dispute. Both parties may then make submissions as to the facts to be found proven in light of the evidence received by the MPT.
The MPT then considers and decides whether the disputed facts are proved.
Where some, or all, of the facts are admitted or found proven, the MPT receives further evidence and hears submissions, first from the GMC’s representative and then from you, as to whether based on the facts found proved, your fitness to practise is impaired.
If the MPT concludes that your fitness to practise is not impaired, it may invite submissions on whether a warning should be issued to you.
If the MPT concludes that your fitness to practise is impaired, it then hears further evidence and submissions from both parties relating to sanction.
Having heard the evidence and submissions, the MPT will consider whether to impose a sanction on your registration. It will announce its decision in open session and must give reasons for the decision.
If the MPT decide to impose a sanction on your registration, it will then invite further submissions on whether to impose an immediate order on your registration. It will then consider and decide whether to impose an immediate order.
If your fitness to practise is found to be impaired, the tribunal must impose the minimum sanction necessary to ensure the public are protected.
The following sanctions are available:
- impose a period of conditions on your registration for up to three years
- a suspension of your registration for up to 12 months, or
- direct that your name shall be erased from the medical register, except where the allegations relate solely to your health or to your knowledge of the English language. If your name is erased from the medical register, you will not be allowed to apply for re-registration for at least 5 years.
A doctor may appeal to the High Court against any sanction imposed but must do so within 28 days. The GMC also has the right to appeal decisions made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.
How can we help?
Our experienced GMC Defence Lawyers provide expert advice and representation to doctors facing investigations by the GMC in the following ways:
- Representing doctors accused of criminal offences including at the police station and Court.
- Offering practical, strategic advice.
- Representing doctors subject to criticism during inquest.
- Advising in respect of the suitability of warnings and undertakings.
- Providing specialist advice in respect of GMC investigations.
- Preparation of responses to rule 7 letters.
- Assistance at Interim Orders Tribunals Hearings.
- Representation before the MPTS re fitness to practise hearings.
- Advising on appeals to the High Court against sanctions imposed by the MPTS.
We can tailor our service to the individual needs of each client so please call to discuss your situation and find out how we can help.
Why choose us?
We have a wealth of experience defending professionals who have been referred to their regulatory body. We provide a platinum service which includes robust, strategic advice, hard work, tenacity and a desire to win.
Our Defence Lawyers for Doctors offer a bespoke service, aimed specifically at the circumstances of each individual case.
With over 35 years of experience of defending clients in regulatory investigations, we are leading GMC Investigation Solicitors in Manchester and Stockport.
Contact our GMC Lawyers today for a free consultation.