Civil standard of proof could cause 'unfair' rulings

Medical defence experts are bracing themselves for an upsurge in appeals and legal challenges following the introduction of the civil standard of proof in GMC fitness-to-practise hearings from May 31.

Defence societies expect the numbers of doctors suspended or erased to increase when the ‘much lower standard of proof' comes into force.

And they say that the new standard will lead to ‘inconsistent and unfair' decisions.

‘Panels will find it difficult where there are different charges and there will be inconsistencies between panels,' said Dr Hugh Stewart, head of case decisions at the Medical Defence Union.

Findings in cases where the facts are disputed will now be assessed on the balance of probabilities, after the GMC ditched the criminal standard requiring proof beyond all reasonable doubt.

The GMC has repeatedly stressed that the new standard will be applied flexibly so that more cogent evidence will be required for more serious allegations and that it expects no increase in suspensions or erasures.

The GMC has written to 167 doctors in the queue for a hearing who will now face a new standard of proof.

prisca.middlemiss@haymarket.com

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