Medical Protection has urged the Government to provide an urgent update on when it will strip the GMC of its power to appeal Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) decisions – a commitment it made exactly four years ago.
The call comes as new figures obtained by Medical Protection under an FOI request show the GMC has lodged 23 appeals since June 2018, when the Government first accepted the Professor Sir Norman Williams review recommendation.
The Williams review, which followed the case of Dr Bawa-Garba, said removing the GMC’s right of appeal against MPTS decisions would help address the mistrust of the GMC amongst doctors and contribute to cultivating a culture of openness that is central to delivering improved patient safety. It also said public protection would still be maintained, with the Professional Standards Authority retaining its near identical right of appeal to MPTS decisions.
Medical Protection had called for the reform be made as part of the Health and Social Care Bill, which recently received Royal Ascent, but the Government said it would instead use secondary legislation to implement this change alongside a range of other regulatory reforms proposed in a consultation launched in March 2021. This secondary legislation was due to come into force in spring 2022, however the response to the March 2021 consultation is yet to be published, signalling what could be a significant delay.
Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, said: “The GMC’s power to appeal decisions made by the MPTS has created distrust between the medical profession and the regulator and contributed to a culture of fear. Fitness to practise proceedings are stressful and lengthy enough for doctors, without the added worry that the GMC can seek to override the decision made by the MPTS if it does not agree.
“The Government agreed that the GMC should be stripped of this power on 11 June 2018, following the Williams review into Gross Negligence Manslaughter in healthcare. Exactly four years on, and the GMC continues to use these powers, with 23 appeals lodged during the four-year period. Doctors will continue to have this hanging over their heads until the relevant legislative changes are made to the Medical Act.
“While we support the principle behind many of the wider reforms proposed in the consultation launched in March 2021, our concern was always that grouping these reforms together would inevitably lead to further delays in the removal of the GMC’s right of appeal.
“With the response to the March 2021 consultation still yet to be published, disappointingly, this appears to be the case and we would like an urgent update on when the government now anticipates the legislation will come into force.
“Last year 13 leading healthcare organisations joined us in calling on the Government to finally see through its commitment on this. The strength of feeling on this issue is clear to see and the continued delay is both frustrating and concerning.”
Notes to editors
For further information contact Kate Tullett, Media Manager at MPS: E: firstname.lastname@example.org T:+44 (0)7515 298791.
- Dr Bawa-Garba was erased from the medical register after the GMC appealed against a tribunal ruling that suspended her for 12 months. She was later reinstated after judges found the original tribunal decision to be appropriate.
- Professor Sir Norman William’s review into Gross Negligence Manslaughter in healthcare, following the Dr Bawa-Garba case:https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/717946/Williams_Report.pdf
- The Government’s response to the review on 11 June 2018: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2018-06-11/HCWS751
- An MPS FOI request to the GMC showed that 23 appeals have been lodged from June 2018-present.Please contact the MPS press office for full/year by year data.
- The Regulating healthcare professionals, protecting the public consultation (published on 25 March 2021) which sets out detailed proposals for legislative changes that will apply to all the regulators, included a recommitment to removing the GMC’s power to appeal. Page 58: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/973017/Regulating_healthcare_professionals__protecting_the_public.pdf
- In April 2021 a coalition of 13 leading healthcare organisations urged the Government to deliver on its 2018 commitment to strip the General Medical Council (GMC) of its power to appeal decisions made by the MPTS. The letter to the Health Secretary was signed by Medical Protection Society, The Doctors’ Association UK, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Medical Women’s Federation, Association of Anaesthetists, British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and Medical Defence Shield.
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