Civil proof standard 'inevitable'

Fitness-to-practise cases will inevitably be judged on the civil rather than the criminal standard of proof, according to the chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee.

Kevin Barron MP (Labour, Rother Valley) told a four-hour debate on the Health and Social Care Bill last week that the GMC was already set on the change to the lesser standard of proof.

The GMC member told the Commons: ‘The civil standard of proof will apply in any case without the Bill.

‘The GMC decided that quite a long time ago, upsetting the profession well before ministers did so by publishing the Bill.’

However, Mr Barron said that a more rigorous proof standard would be required on a sliding scale depending upon the seriousness of the allegation against the doctor.

He added: ‘The GMC’s legal advice makes it clear that the civil standard of proof is not a rigid criterion by which facts are to be judged, but is to be tailored to the facts of any given case. It is often said that the more serious the facts alleged, the more cogent and compelling will be the evidence required.’

Mr Barron, who also sits on GMC fitness-to-practise panels, added that: ‘It is questionable whether it is appropriate to retain the criminal standard of proof in a protective rather than criminal jurisdiction, especially when the concerns relate to a doctor’s health or performance.’

neil.durham@haymarket.com

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