GPC considers legal challenge on proof standard

The GPC is hoping the legality of changes to the standard of proof in fitness-to-practise cases can be challenged.

Dr Laurence Buckman
Dr Laurence Buckman

The legislation, which will apply a ‘sliding scale’ according to the severity of the accusation, is due to appear in the next Queen’s speech, expected on 6 November 2007.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘We will ask if it is legal, and if it can be challenged before it goes to parliament.’

Dr Buckman said that the GPC was ‘absolutely opposed’ to the introduction of the civil standard of proof (balance of probabilities) in fitness-to-practise cases.

‘What is strange is the GMC has chosen to move to this without legislation or consultation. We are surprised by a consultation on how to implement proposals we don’t agree with.’

Dr Buckman said: ‘The ‘sliding scale’ standard of proof is not in patients’ interest, as GPs will start to practise defensively. I have not found any groups that support this position.’

Dr Buckman would give no detail about what form any challenge would take.

The GMC is currently consulting over plans to adopt the lower civil standard of proof in some cases.

GP reported earlier this year that the proposals had been opposed by both the Medical Protection Society and Medical Defence Union, the latter describing them as comparable with ‘the trial in Alice in Wonderland’ (GP, 31 August 2007).

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