The GMC today launched a new tribunal service for doctors in what it says is the biggest shake-up of fitness to practise hearings since they were first established in 1858.
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson (pictured) says the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), a new impartial adjudication function for doctors, is a key part of the GMC’s fitness to practise reforms.
He said the MPTS represents a key part of GMC reforms and delivers a clear separation between investigations and the decisions made about a doctor’s fitness to practise.
The service will be based in a dedicated centre in Manchester, and while a part of the GMC it will be operationally separate from the regulator’s complaint handling, investigation and case presentation. It is also accountable to Parliament.
From today it will take over all fitness to practise cases relating to registered doctors from the GMC and make decisions on what action is needed to protect patients.
The MPTS is led by His Honour David Pearl, an independently appointed chair, who has held a range of senior judicial roles including the President of the Care Standards Tribunal and Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission.
David Pearl is responsible for appointing, training, appraising and mentoring MPTS panellists and legal assessors.
MPTS panels can, in the most serious cases, remove or suspend a doctor from the medical register or place restrictions on their practise.
It can also take early action to ensure patient safety by considering cases before a full fitness to practise hearing, where it may be appropriate to place restrictions on a doctor’s practise immediately or suspend their practise while investigations proceed.
This provides an important safeguard should allegations against the doctor be considered to present a risk to the public.
Parliament approved the establishment of the MPTS in 2011 after the government’s decision not to proceed with the establishment of the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA) in 2010.
Niall Dickson, said: “The launch of the MPTS is the biggest change to doctors’ fitness to practise hearings for more than 150 years.
“We hope that the MPTS will strengthen professional and public confidence that our hearings are impartial, fair and transparent – the fact that the service is led by a judicial figure who has a direct line to Parliament should provide that assurance.”
The work of the MPTS will be overseen by a committee, made up of the MPTS Chair and two further members, one medical and one lay, who are drawn from a pool of experienced panellists.
The GMC is seeking parliamentary approval for the right to appeal where it does not agree with the decision of a particular panel, which is expected to be effective in 2013.
NHS Employers the organisation representing NHS managers has welcomed the new initiative and has also today launched two new guides one on supporting doctors in difficulty and the other on appointing and employing locums.
NHS Employers head of medical pay and workforce, Bill McMillan, says:
"This is a much improved system that NHS employers will strongly welcome, and which should reassure patients that concerns about doctors will be handled robustly.
“Safeguards will be as strong as ever but this new process aims to resolve cases more quickly, while evidence is fresh and participants still have a good recall of events. It is a significant step away from the cumbersome processes that could result in doctors being suspended for several years awaiting hearings and decisions.”