Doctors can be legally represented at a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing, or they can represent themselves. The MPTS however “strongly advise” doctors to seek advice and be legally represented. The simple fact is that MPTS hearings are complex, daunting, prolonged and legalistic.
Doctors who decide to self-represent at a MPTS hearing will need to clearly understand the process, prepare their own case, speak on their own behalf and ask questions of witnesses and expert witnesses (where applicable).
MPTS hearings – Complex, Daunting, Prolonged and Legalistic
The simple fact is, MPTS hearings are far from simple and straight forward.
It is important that doctors understand what to expect if their GMC investigation leads to a MPTS tribunal hearing, and why the tribunal process is universally described as ‘daunting’. Doctors will need to prepare for a trial in all but name – the hearing will be complex, formal and adversarial; the panel will be headed by a legally qualified chair; the process will be broad-ranging and lengthy.
Preparing for a MPTS hearing is a lengthy process that involves a number of processes and steps. A very brief overview of these are outlined below:
- Case Management – When the GMC informs a doctor that their case has been referred to a MPTS hearing, the GMC will notify the MPTS that a hearing date is required. The MPTS will then use their “case management procedure” to allocate hearing dates and agree arrangements. A doctor will need to participate in a telephone conference where they will be given instructions to comply with. It is important to comply with these directions, as there can be consequences for failing to do so.
- Deciding to attend a MPTS hearing – A doctor will need to decide whether to attend their medical practitioners’ tribunal hearing, submit written submissions instead. If a doctor choose not to attend, the hearing may proceed in their absence. A doctor will also need to make sure they inform the MPTS of their intentions within the prescribed timescales.
- Evidence – Doctors will need to prepare, submit and present their evidence. It is important to obtain and disclose all relevant evidence a doctor wishes the medical practitioners’ tribunal to consider, in line with the deadlines set. Evidence can include, for example, disclosing documents, obtaining expert and/or witness evidence, obtaining testimonial evidence and preparing to question General Medical Council (GMC) witnesses. Doctors will also need to be able to challenge and respond to GMC evidence.
- Procedures and rules – The consequences of failure to comply with the rules and/or case management directions might result in the medical practitioners’ tribunal to draw an adverse inference or exclude evidence and/or make a costs award against a doctor.
- Stages – An MPTS hearing involves a number of stages, each with opportunities to present evidence and arguments in support of the doctor’s case and challenge evidence from the GMC. Engagement and responding effectively during the various stages is crucial to the outcome of the hearing. Even if the MPTS makes a finding of impaired fitness to practise, arguments as to the appropriate sanction can still be made during the last stage of the process.
MPTS Legal Representation – Does it Pay?
Research has clearly shown the benefits for doctors who are legally represented.
A 2019 study peer-reviewed study published in the journal BMC Medicine found that doctors who lacked legal representation tended to receive more serious outcomes. The study results showed clearly that both “non-attendance and lack of legal representation” were consistently related to more serious outcomes.”
A similar 2015 study 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.
When should you instruct legal representation?
You must instruct legal representation at the earliest possible opportunity when you are notified by the GMC that you are under investigation.
There are opportunities during the GMC’s investigation process where a case can be closed without the need for a MPTS hearing. However, where a case is referred to a MPTS hearing, having instructed legal representation at the earliest possible opportunity, means we have opportunity to fully assess your case and to work with you on steps necessary to address the concerns and allegations.
Why Kings View?
Kings View are public access barristers, meaning that you can instruct us directly without having the additional expense of hiring a solicitor first (so we are generally at least one third cheaper).
At Kings View, we have experience defending every level of doctor in all tribunals for the last 10 years and our barristers have additional qualifications from the Bar Standards Board, meaning that we can carry out all the tasks that a solicitor can – including litigation.
We are proud to have been rated excellent by our clients and have a proven track record of success.
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.