Swift removal of GMC tribunal appeal powers vital to reassure profession

The government must move swiftly to strip the GMC of its power to appeal against medical tribunal decisions in the wake of the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, medico-legal experts have warned.

The government has already decided to remove the regulator's power of appeal against tribunal decisions after backing in full recommendations from the Williams review earlier this month.

However, a legal expert from the Medical Protection Society (MPS) has urged the government to move rapidly to implement the change, calling for a clear timetable to be set out.

MPS medical director Dr Rob Hendry said that repealing part of the Medical Act to enforce the change is likely to be a lengthy process.

Power of appeal

He told a Westminster Health Forum event this week: 'I am delighted that the government has accepted the need to remove the GMC’s power to appeal decisions by the MPTS. We have consistently argued that the GMC should not have this power.'

Dr Hendry pointed out that the Professional Standards Authority has a 'near identical power' and that duplication was 'highly unsatisfactory' at a time when the health service was keen to streamline regulation.

'When the GMC no longer has the power of appeal, doctors appearing before the medical practitioners tribunal service (MPTS) will have greater confidence that the tribunal and the GMC are moving further towards being separate, independent entities.

Bawa-Garba case

'The legislation required to enable the removal of this power will take time. We are calling on the government to bring it forward quickly and outline its timescale for change, so the profession has certainty in its commitment.'

The Williams review was commissioned by health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt amid concern in the medical profession about the implications of the case of Dr Bawa-Garba, who was struck off earlier this year. The case triggered widespread concerns among doctors about the safety of taking part in written reflection.

The GMC said after the Williams review recommendations that it was 'surprised' at the focus on its power of appeal - and hit out over the review's failure to offer legal protection for doctors' reflective notes.

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