The General Medical Council has created a range of online tools to support anyone who is called to give evidence in a GMC fitness to practise hearing. The tools, accessible through the GMC website, are designed to offer some reassurance to all those who are called to give evidence.
The GMC says it hopes to demystify matters by allowing people the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the process and the look and feel of a hearing. An online hearing room will allow doctors, patients, and witnesses to take a virtual step inside a hearing, and users can tour the room and see who is attending, and why.
The site includes virtual representations of all the people who might attend a hearing, including lay and medical members of the panel, and a doctor’s representative. Users of the site can click on any of these 12 characters for an explanation of their role in a hearing. The site also shows the reception area and waiting rooms for doctors and witnesses, to allow anyone attending a hearing to feel more familiar with their surroundings when they arrive.
In addition, the GMC has launched the "Information for doctors" initiative. This provides information on the GMC website to doctors whose cases are due to be considered by a Fitness to Practise Panel, as well as a booklet about what to expect at hearings.
The GMC has also embarked on a project to support vulnerable witnesses. Witnesses will be invited to come into the GMC’s buildings for a tour, in advance of the hearing. The will also be offered the chance to be joined by an independent "friend", assigned on the day of the hearing, to provide support.
Paul Philip, the GMC’s director of standards and fitness to practise, said: "Attending and giving evidence in a hearing can be a daunting process for members of the public and doctors alike. We hope that this initiative will offer some peace of mind to all those who are called to give evidence at our hearings, and that the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the process and the look and feel of a hearing will help to demystify it."
Dr Nick Clements, of the Medical Protection Society, said: "We should welcome this approach – it’s very useful material to assist people unfamiliar with the GMC process – whether they are a witness, or a doctor facing charges. It helps create a feeling of familiarity with the process that should help to reduce the stress associated with attending a hearing."