GMC could have power to challenge fitness-to-practise decisions

The GMC could be given powers to challenge decisions about doctors' fitness to practise after a fully independent tribunal service is set up next year.

The GMC has approved plans to establish the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), which will take over the running of doctors’ hearings from next year.

It means the GMC could appeal decisions made by the MPTS, although it said it would only challenge decisions it thought were ‘too lenient’.

The GMC will only be able to appeal MPTS decisions if there is a change in legislation. But the GMC said it is does want this power and it will pursue this aim.

It follows the decision by the government to abandon plans for the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA), an independent body to adjudicate on fitness-to-practise hearings, outlining that it would cost £16m to set up.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the management arrangements for the new tribunal service will mean there is a ‘very real Chinese wall’ between the GMC’s investigation activity and the adjudication decisions.  

He said: ‘This gives us the ability to comment on decisions [made by the MPTS]. At the moment we have been fairly reticent about commenting on decisions…because the panels are part of the GMC.’

Mr Dickson said there will be ‘occasional circumstances’ where the GMC disagrees with the MPTS. In this instance the GMC would want to appeal against the decision to the High Court.

The adjudication hearings will also no longer be held in London as the new body will run all hearings in Manchester, he said. Around 70% of hearings take place in Manchester already.

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