GMC still challenging medical tribunal decisions a year after Williams review

More than a year after the government promised to strip the GMC of its power of appeal in the wake of the Bawa-Garba case, the watchdog is continuing to challenge medical tribunal decisions.

Statistics obtained by GPonline show the GMC has appealed three tribunal decisions since June 2018, when the government accepted advice from the Williams review into gross negligence manslaughter that the watchdog should lose its power to appeal against fitness to practise rulings by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

The GMC confirmed that all three appeals were ongoing and had yet to reach the hearing stage in the High Court, with no dates set at this point.

Despite calls from doctors and organisations including the BMA for the regulator to surrender its powers, the GMC confirmed it would continue to appeal decisions until changes were made to the law.

The government said last year it was exploring 'options for delivery' of the Williams review recommendations - but has yet to legislate to enforce the changes.

Landmark case

Recommendations to remove the GMC's power of appeal followed the high-profile case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who was struck off the medical register after the GMC appealed against a tribunal ruling that suspended her for 12 months.

Dr Bawa-Garba was later reinstated after judges found the original tribunal decision to be appropriate. Doctors said the GMC's use of its power of appeal in the Bawa-Garba case had 'severely damaged' doctors' confidence in the regulator.

LMCs passed a vote of no confidence in the GMC at their annual conference last year.

However, the GMC has said it will continue to exercise its right to appeal fitness to practise decisions until the government changes the Medical Act, based on legal advice that it would be ‘unlawful’ to do otherwise.

Statutory duties

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said last year: 'The fact that the government has stated that it intends to legislate to remove it does not allow us to ignore our statutory duties.

‘We would be acting unlawfully if we did not give due consideration to the exercise of our powers to appeal a decision where the decision could reasonably be considered to be insufficient to protect the public.’

Medical director at the Medical Protection Society Dr Rob Hendry has told GPonline that the GMC should be stripped of its powers ‘immediately’, however, adding that a halt to appeals would give the GMC a chance to rebuild confidence among GPs.

Meanwhile, the BMA has previously expressed it was 'deeply concerned' about the right of the GMC to appeal against fitness to practice decisions.

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