Meaningful Engagement

Doctors are required to “… cooperate with formal inquiries and complaints procedures and must offer all relevant information …” to the GMC.  This is explained in the Good Medical Practice.

It is important that doctor’s “cooperation” with the GMC is meaningful to make a positive difference to the outcome of their case, and this meaningful engagement remains relevant throughout the entire GMC fitness to practise process and investigation. 

For example, not attending the hearing meant that registrants were not able to defend themselves against concerns raised, and panels were more dependent on the statements of witnesses. The registrant’s credibility and reliability as a witness, demonstration of insight, remorse and regret, and any remediation which has taken place are also important aggravating and mitigating factors.

Understanding the GMC’s fitness to practise investigation process

A clear and thorough understanding of the GMC’s fitness to practise process is, however, needed to enable doctors to engage with the process in a meaningful way. 

It is a commonly held view that the GMC and MPTS’ fitness to practise processes are universally described as complex, formal and adversarial and doctors need to prepare for a trial in all but name.

This is where legal advice and representation is particularly relevant and significant because this would support and guide doctors through the GMC’s fitness to practise process.  

Independent research has shown that “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.”

Better outcomes for doctors

It is well recognised that the extent to which a doctor engages with the GMC’s process, from initial complaint to the final hearing, has been shown as vitally important to the severity of sanctions.  Conversely, the lack of legal representation has been identified as being associated with more severe sanctions outcomes in fitness to practise cases.

Previous research 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.

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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.