The GMC will be legally represented – you should too!

At numerous stages in the GMC’s fitness to practise investigation process, the GMC will be legally represented by an experienced solicitor or barrister.  Legal representation is therefore essential for doctors.

At numerous stages in the GMC’s fitness to practise investigation process, the GMC will be legally represented by an experienced solicitor or barrister.  Legal representation is therefore essential for doctors.

At various stages of the General Medical Council’s (GMC) investigation process, doctors subject to an investigation will need to engage, and interact, with the GMC as part of its investigation.  At almost all of these engagements and interactions, the GMC will be represented by an experienced solicitor or barrister.  This is particularly the case where the investigation process involves a hearing:

  1. Restoration Hearings – Following an erasure from the GMC’s register, a doctor can apply for restoration. Where the erasure was a result of a fitness to practise issue, the matter will be determined by a restoration hearing.  [More on GMC Restoration]
  2. Interim Order Tribunal Hearings At any stage of the GMC’s investigation, it can refer a doctor to an interim orders tribunal. This is likely to happen where the allegations against the doctor are serious enough that, if proven, would mean the doctor poses a threat to patients or the public. [More in GMC Interim Order Tribunal Hearings]
  3. Investigation Committee Hearings – Where a doctor’s fitness to practise is not impaired, but there has been a significant departure from the principles set out in the Good Medical Practice, a warning may be issued. This decision is taken by the GMC’s Case Examiners at the end of the investigation stage. Where the Case Examiners consider that it may be appropriate to conclude a case with a warning, but the doctor disputes the facts or is not willing to accept a warning and exercises his/her right to an oral hearing, the Investigation Committee is convened to consider the case.
  4. Non-compliance Hearings – The GMC may refer a doctor to a Medical Practitioners Tribunal (‘MPT’) where it is of the opinion that a doctor has failed to submit to an assessment of their performance, health or knowledge of English or failed to comply with requirements imposed by an assessment. [More on Non-compliance Hearings]
  5. Medical Practitioners Tribunals – Medical practitioners tribunals hear evidence and decide whether a doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired and their registration should be restricted.

At these GMC hearings, the panel (or tribunal) is usually (bit not always) made up of three tribunal members, at least one doctor (medically qualified with a licence to practise) and at least one lay person (not medically qualified). One tribunal member will act as chair.  The chair may be a legally qualified, either an experienced solicitor or barrister.  If the chair is not legally qualified, a legal assessor will be appointed to advise the panel on questions of law as to evidence and procedure.

In addition, in contested cases, the GMC will be represented by a barrister who will present the GMC’s case against you, challenge your evidence and will cross-examine you.  Without legal representation, you will need to prepare your own case, undertaken your own cross-examination and challenge of the evidence against you.

GMC Investigations – complex, adversarial and legalistic

Without expert legal advice and representation, doctors are putting themselves at considerable risk.  The case pointing to the benefits and advantages of legal representation is abundantly clear.

It is always advisable – including by the GMC & MPTS – that doctors to seek legal advice and representation at the earliest opportunity – ideally when they are advised by the GMC of an open investigation.

The reality is that the GMC’s investigation process is complex, adversarial, legalistic and likely to take more than 12 months to complete (depending on complexity).

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Does legal representation make a difference?

In simple terms, yes!

Evidence by the General Medical Council (GMC) itself found that doctors who lacked legal representation tended to receive more serious outcomes.  The data showed clearly that both “non-attendance and lack of legal representation” were consistently related to more serious outcomes.”

Similar data revealed that – of the two outcomes, suspension or erasure – doctors with legal representation at hearings were significantly more likely to merely be suspended (72%), rather than struck off (28%). In contrast, 69% of self-represented doctors were struck off.

More recently, research published concluded that:

“Legal representation was seen as important by participants because legal advice could support and guide registrants through the FtP process, which is complex and legalistic. Legal advice was seen as important in aiding registrants to understand regulators’ expectations, especially in terms of the need for registrants to demonstrate insight and perhaps to show evidence of remediation activities. Lack of legal representation was, therefore, seen to potentially have an impact in terms of the seriousness of the outcome for registrants who are perhaps unaware of how to present their case to best effect.”

The case for legal representation is absolutely clear and this therefore clearly points to the fact that doctors who do not engage with the GMC and/or do so but without the support of legal representation are taking, potentially, significant risks with their registration.

Our GMC & MPTS Case Success 

Here when you need us

Kings View has been advising and representing health care professionals for many years, and we know that despite their best efforts, some things do go wrong.  Through our experience, we know that the circumstances that lead to things going wrong are never straightforward.

It is a well-established fact that healthcare professionals who seek legal advice and representation at an early stage in any fitness to practise process, generally, receive better outcomes and lesser sanctions, if any.  We can advise on the right strategy to take and represent you before a fitness to practise hearing.

Kings View are public access barristers, meaning that you can instruct us directly without having the additional expense of hiring a solicitor first (so we are generally at least one third cheaper).

You can speak to us today for a free, no obligation assessment of your case.

Disclaimer: This article is for guidance purposes only. Kings View Chambers accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken, or not taken, in relation to this article. You should seek the appropriate legal advice having regard to your own particular circumstances.

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