The GMC and the doctor in question are both invited to attend. The GMC is normally represented at the hearing by a barrister and the doctor is usually present and legally represented. Both parties may call witnesses to give evidence, who may be crossexamined by the other party. The Panel may also put questions to the witnesses.
Panels meet in public, except where they are considering confidential information concerning the doctor’s health or they are considering making an interim order.
An FTP Panel is appointed through open competition by the MPTS against agreed competencies. In addition to the chairman, who may be medical or non-medical, there must be at least one medical and one non-medical panellist on each panel. A legal assessor sits with each Panel and advises on points of law and of mixed law and fact. One or more specialist advisers may also be present. Their role is to provide advice to the Panel in relation to medical issues regarding a doctor’s health or performance.
Once the Panel has heard all the evidence, it must decide:
Whether the facts alleged have been found proved
Whether, on the basis of the facts found proved, the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired
Whether any action should be taken against the doctor’s registration.
If the Panel concludes that the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, the following sanctions are available:
To take no action
To accept undertakings offered by the doctor provided the panel is satisfied that these protect patients and the wider public interest
To place conditions on the doctor’s registration
To suspend the doctor’s registration
To erase the doctor’s name from the medical register, so that they can no longer practise.
Panels meet in public, except where they are considering confidential information concerning the doctor’s health or they are considering making an interim order
Decisions must be made in line with the GMC’s indicative sanctions guidance, which aims to ensure consistency of decision-making. Any proposed action has to be sufficient to protect patients and the public interest.
If a Panel concludes that the doctor’s fitness to practise is not impaired, but there has been a significant departure from the standards set out in Good Medical Practice, it may issue a warning to the doctor.
Where the Panel makes a finding on disputed facts, it applies the civil standard of proof.
Doctors have a right of appeal to the High Court against any decision by a Panel to restrict or remove their registration. The appeal should be filed within 28 days of the doctor being notified of the decision; the appeal should be made to:
the Court of Session in Scotland if the doctor’s registered address is or would be in Scotland
the High Court of Justice of Northern Ireland if the doctor’s registered address is or would be in Northern Ireland
the High Court of Justice in England and Wales in any other case.
Likewise, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence may also appeal against certain decisions if they consider they were too lenient.
Applications for restoration
Any doctor whose name was erased from the medical register by an FTP Panel can apply for their name to be restored. However, this cannot be done until a period of five years has elapsed since the date their name was erased.
Remember to remain professional
It is important to remember that an adverse incident is not necessarily a sign of being unprofessional, or of poor clinical practice. Mistakes do sometimes happen. Getting your response right when things go wrong is the hallmark of a professional. Being open and honest can go a long way in defusing a tense situation and can prevent a complaint or claim being made.
Similarly, if you are reported to the GMC, and an investigation takes place, be open and honest about it. Contact MPS and your employer at the earliest opportunity and be as co-operative as possible if you are asked to provide evidence. Keeping a cool head in the face of criticism about your professional performance or clinical practice is a sign of true professionalism.
Doctors have a right of appeal to the High Court against any decision by a Panel to restrict or remove their registration