What is the GMC Investigation Committee?
Where a doctor’s fitness to practise is not impaired, but there has been a significant departure from the principles set out in the General Medical Council’s (GMC) 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.
Under GMC rules, the Investigation Committee can make one of the following decisions:
- That the matter should be closed without further action;
- That a warning should be issued; or
- Where new information presented to the hearing indicates that it would be appropriate to do so, the Committee will refer the allegation for determination by a medical practitioners tribunal of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.
Doctors will receive correspondence from the GMC to give notice of the hearing, to confirm the arrangements and details of the allegation and the facts upon which it is based.
Do GMC warnings matter?
First thing to say is that a warning does not prevent a doctor from holding a licence to practise and does not place any restrictions on their registration.
However, GMC research “has uncovered a good deal of evidence that suggests severe and long-term impacts are occurring for many doctors receiving warnings from the GMC. Many who received warnings report that their current and ongoing employment is adversely affected. Some have been unable to work again at all.”
GMC warnings are publicly visible on the GMC online register for two years, along with a summary of it issued it. After this, the warning will no longer be visible. However, and more importantly, the GMC does retain a record of it and can disclose it to employers on request.
The same research referred to above found that:
“Employers react to warnings in a variety of ways. In some cases, warnings are ignored or even ridiculed. At the other extreme, the receipt of a warning leads to the end of the employment relationship with the doctor in question.”
GMC warnings can therefore have a disproportionate impact on a doctor’s career and reputation. In practice, a GMC warning might be a factor in career, career progression and/or the determinative factor in job applications.
Legal Representation – Considerations for Doctors
There are a number of things for a doctor to consider regarding the Investigation Committee:
- Hearings are held in public – Investigation Committee hearings are generally held in public. In addition, the details of the hearings will also be publicly available, in advance, on the GMC’s website.
- GMC’s legal representation – A legal assessor will be appointed to advise the Committee, and the GMC will normally be represented at the hearing by a barrister.
- Hearing in absentia – The committee will, generally, decide to continue with the hearing even in the absence of the doctor or their legal representative.
- Right to respond & submit evidence – At the hearing, the GMC will present the case for a warning to be issued against the doctor. The doctor, or their legal representative, will have the opportunity to respond and present any relevant documentary evidence.
The reality is that the GMC’s Investigation Committee, and general investigation process, is complex, adversarial and legalistic. There is clear evidence to point to the benefits of legal representation in fitness to practise proceedings, and doctors should carefully consider the need for legal advice. Contact us today for a no obligation and free telephone consultation about your case in the knowledge that you are speaking to one of the best in the business.
GMC “Rule 7 Letter” & Investigation Committee
GMC Case Examiners will write to a doctor at the conclusion of their investigation, setting out the allegations and evidence against the doctor. The doctor will be invited to respond (within 28 days) to the Rule 7 letter, and this response will be taken into account by the Case Examiner when making a final decision regarding the doctor’s case.
This therefore provides the doctor with an opportunity to resolve the matter without the need for an Investigation Committee and/or warning. Key here again is specialist legal advice that will guide the doctor in terms of their response, evidence and understanding of all the legal and process considerations.
Kings View Barristers
With over 30 years combined experience, Kings View Chambers have established itself as one of the best when it comes to fitness to practise defence. We fully understand that fitness to practise defence is not merely about processes and procedures. We also understand that we are working with people who are anxious and worried about what investigations might mean for them, their professions and the reputations.
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.