Laws allowing GMC to appeal tribunal decisions 'unfair to doctors'

Changes to the law that allow the GMC to appeal against medical tribunal decisions is unfair to doctors, the Medical Protection Society (MPS) has warned.

GMC: tribunal appeal decision (Photo:JH Lancy)
GMC: tribunal appeal decision (Photo:JH Lancy)

The GMC has the ability to appeal against decisions made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), after parliament approved changes to the Medical Act on Tuesday.

The change to the law means that if the GMC considers an MPTS decision to be ‘too lenient’ or deems that it ‘does not protect the public’, it will now be able to appeal against it.

Tribunals run against doctors by the MPTS will now be placed on a statutory footing. Cases will be streamlined, the GMC says, and will now be presided over by legally qualified chairs in some cases.

'Unfair' to doctors

But the MPS said it was against the GMC having the power to appeal MPTS decisions as it was ‘unfair to doctors’.

MPS medicolegal adviser Dr Pallavi Bradshaw told GP: ‘MPTS panels are supposed to be independent. They are so closely linked with the GMC already that giving them the ability to appeal decisions I think is going to be unfair to doctors.

‘Say a doctor gets a sanction the GMC doesn’t agree with, they could appeal that decision. During that appeal process the doctor is left up in the air not knowing what’s happening.

‘So you are then going to end up with a doctor potentially not knowing whether they can go back to practise waiting for a year or more for a decision to be made.

Not the GMC's role

‘The GMC is obviously going to be disappointed if it doesn’t get the decision it wants but that’s not what it's there for, the panel have made that decision and it’s for an independent body, such as the Professional Standards Authority to make the decision about whether the panel’s decision was unduly lenient.’

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, said: ‘The new right of appeal and the establishment of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service as a statutory body are major reforms in UK professional regulation.

‘They will reinforce our separation from the tribunal service and our role as a patient safety organisation which brings the most serious cases to the tribunal service for adjudication.

‘These changes will also help us streamline our investigations, reduce the time it takes to deal with complaints and make our procedures faster, fairer and more efficient.’

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