Doctors under investigation may quickly find the GMC is far less concerned about protecting doctors, highlighting the value of legal advice.
Does the GMC protect doctors?
In 2016, the then General Medical Council (GMC) Chief Executive, Niall Dickson, wrote in the Daily Mail, that, speaking about the GMC:
‘We are not here to protect doctors – their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.‘
The language may have softened somewhat in the last few years, with an increasing emphasis now placed on the role of the GMC in helping to support doctors.
But if you find yourself under investigation, you may quickly find that the GMC is far less concerned about protecting doctors than you first thought – its two main concerns are patient safety and maintaining public confidence in the profession as a whole.
The GMC’s investigation process is based firstly on the concept of “impairment of fitness to practise” focusing on patient safety. The legislation that underpins the GMC’s functions states (summarised):
A person’s fitness to practise shall be regarded as “impaired” for the purposes of this Act by reason only of:
- deficient professional performance;
- a conviction or caution;
- adverse physical or mental health;
- (da) not having the necessary knowledge of English; and/or
- a determination by another health and social care regulatory body.
Perhaps the most obvious risk to patient safety is poor clinical competence – and this can certainly lead to the imposition of the most serious sanctions, particularly if a pattern of offending can be established.
However, the GMC uses a broader interpretation of patient safety that also includes:
- dishonesty (e.g. falsifying UK visa, qualifications, CVs and references to obtain employment)
- administrative (e.g. failing to arrange personal indemnity insurance)
- issues in personal life (e.g. violent, drunken or sexual misconduct)
It should be pointed out that the GMC also considers potential risks to future patient safety – so you could potentially lose your medical licence even if no actual harm was caused by your actions.
Public Confidence in Profession
In addition to the idea of ‘impairment’ which directly impacts on patient safety, there is another main thread which comes up again and again in fitness to practise cases – that of the need for the GMC to maintain public confidence in the profession as a whole.
The value of legal advice
Doctors will be sorely mistaken if they believe that the GMC would be of any assistance to them during any investigation. The GMC’s role is to bring proceedings against doctors, in order to protect the public and uphold confidence in the profession. There is clear evidence that legal representation and advice leads to better outcomes for doctors. There are a number of issues for a doctor to consider when considering the value of legal advice, but the simple fact is, MPTS hearings are far from simple and straight forward.
Doctors should seek legal advice and representation when facing any form of GMC allegation and/or investigation. Expert legal advice will, first and foremost, look after the best interest of the doctor and seek the best outcomes for them.
Kings View Chambers
We regularly advise doctors and understand the significance and impact complaints can have on the reputation and career of a doctor. A well-prepared case is essential to ensure the best outcome for you, your career and professional reputation. It is imperative that you seek legal advice from someone who specialises in GMC defence work.
What we do:
- GMC fitness to practise referrals
- GMC fitness to practise hearings
- Appeals against a MPTS Tribunal determination
- MPTS Interim Order hearings
- Appeals against a MPTS Interim Orders Tribunal determination
- Preparing your case before the Case Examiners
- Help with the decision of the Case Examiners
- Help with voluntary removal
- Registration advice
- Appeal against refusal of registration
- Restoration to the Register
- Investigation and disciplinary hearings at work
- Criminal investigation and proceedings
- Police cautions
- DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service] issues
Insight & remediation training & coaching
Insight Works Training will help give you a clear and easy to follow understanding of the regulatory process, explanation of the central role of impairment, how to approach insight and remediation, how to evidence this at your hearing and a directed approach to presenting your learning with evidence in writing and verbally.
We are proud to be rated ‘excellent’ by our clients. Our commitment to client care is genuine in both seeking the very best outcomes for our clients, but also ensuring we do what we can to support them through the process.
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.