Notification from the GMC

The GMC’s fitness to practise procedures

It is important for doctors to understand the General Medical Council’s (GMC) fitness to practise procedures in order to also understand how they might be notified of an investigation. 

Briefly explained, the GMC’s fitness to practise procedures are divided into two separate stages: ‘investigation’ and ‘adjudication’. 


In the investigation stage the GMC will investigate cases to assess whether they need to refer doctors to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) for adjudication. 

The first step in the GMC’s “investigation stage” is known as the provisional enquiry stage.  At an early stage the GMC will decide whether there are issues which we need to investigate further, and if so, what form the investigation should take. 

Doctors will receive a letter from the GMC to notify the doctor of the complaint and the fact that the GMC are investigating it.

If, at the conclusion of the provisional enquiries stage, there are concerns that the GMC considers give rise to questions about the doctor’s fitness to practise, the GMC will open a full investigation.   At this stage the doctor will be given an opportunity to comment on the complaint.


The adjudication stage consists of a hearing by a medical practitioners’ tribunal.  At the end of the hearing, the medical practitioners tribunal may decide that the doctor’s fitness to practise is not impaired and will either take no action or issue a warning. Where they make a finding that the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, they may do one of the following:

  • put conditions on the doctor’s registration (this might mean the doctor is only allowed to do medical work under supervision or restrict him/her to certain areas of practice)
  • suspend the doctor’s name from the medical register so that he/she cannot practise during the period of suspension
  • erase (remove) the doctor from the medical register so that he/she will not be able to work as a doctor in Great Britain; the GMC’s intention is that erasure should normally be for life.

You received notification that you are being investigated by the GMC.  What should you do?

First and foremost, doctors must avoid rash and knee-jerk reactions.  It is important for doctors to read the correspondence from the GMC thoroughly and not simply ignore the letter.  However, after doing so, doctors must carefully consider their next steps. 

It is important for doctors to avoid responding to the GMC without seeking expert legal advice.  A response from doctors will be considered as evidence as part of the GMC’s investigation, and a wrong or ill-considered response could make the matters worse for doctors.

It’s critical that any investigation and requests for information are treated seriously and responded to promptly.  And whilst the matter is ongoing, in order to achieve the best possible outcome, you should seek expert legal advice.

The trauma experienced by a doctor facing a full GMC investigation cannot be overstated – and the phrase ‘second victim’ is very apt here. A GMC investigation is a very dark cloud that looms large over the whole of your personal and professional life for a substantial period of time, even if your fitness to practise is eventually found not to be impaired and no sanctions are imposed. 

Specialist fitness to practise defence barristers will be able to assess your case, give you clear and honest advice and can represent you during the various stages of a GMC investigation when you have the opportunity to submit information and respond to the GMC.

Does legal advice and representation really matter?

Yes.  Numerous pieces of research has shown that doctor’s with legal representation have much better outcomes compared to doctors who go it alone.

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. 

More recently, research commissioned by the General Dental Council concluded that health and care professionals facing fitness to practise proceedings face adverse outcomes if they do not have legal representation.

Things will go wrong, and we are here when you need us

Kings View has been advising and representing doctors for many years, and we know that despite the best efforts of healthcare professionals, some things do go wrong.  Through our experience, we know that the circumstances that lead to things going wrong are never straightforward.

It is a well-established fact that healthcare professionals who seek legal advice and representation at an early stage in any fitness to practise process, generally, receive better outcomes and lesser sanctions, if any.  We can advise on the right strategy to take and represent you before a fitness to practise hearing.

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).

You can speak to me today for a free, no obligation assessment of your case.

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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.