Specialist General Medical Council (GMC) Lawyers
Olliers Solicitors provide professional assistance to those facing proceedings before the GMC. All doctors must be registered with the GMC to practice in the UK.
With offices in Manchester and London, we are able to provide expert representation for doctors throughout the course of their dealings with the GMC, advising at all stages of the disciplinary proceedings, from initial referral to the Interim Orders Tribunal to, if necessary, full Fitness to Practice hearings before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).
As professionals, we understand the anxiety that a potential appearance before a disciplinary committee can cause in terms of the potential loss of, or a restriction upon, one’s ability to practice. At all stages of the investigation we will make appropriate representations on your behalf with a view to allowing your practice to continue unhindered.
We have developed a practice robustly defending professionals due to appear before the MPTS, whether arising from criminal allegations or not and have earned a reputation for meticulous preparation, sound advice and excellent results.
What type of GMC matters can Olliers assist with?
We are able to assist with the following:
- Assisting doctors with notifications to the GMC
- Providing expert advice during the course of GMC investigations
- Advising on disclosure requests by the GMC
- Attendance at GMC meetings
- Preparation of responses to Rule 7 letters
- Advising in relation to warnings and undertakings
- Representation at Interim Orders Tribunal hearings
- Advising on GMC applications to the High Court to extend interim orders
- Representation at fitness to practise hearings before the MPTS
- Appeals to the High Court against decisions of the MPTS
- Applications for restoration to the Medical Register following erasure
Interim Orders Tribunal (IOT)
If the GMC consider that restrictions should be placed on a doctor’s practice, they will refer the case to the Interim Orders Tribunal (IOT) whilst the GMC investigate a doctor.
The IOT ought to only impose restrictions on a doctors practice to:
- Protect members of the public or;
- If it is in the doctor’s interest.
IOT hearings are held in private (although a doctor can request for it to be public).
Powers of the IOT
The IOT can suspend or impose conditions on a doctor’s practice for up to 18 months.
An IOT can impose the following orders:
- No order
- Interim conditions
- Interim suspensions
If an IOT has made an order of interim suspension or interim conditions, reviews must be conducted every six months.
Click here to read more about IOT hearings.
Once the GMC have gathered all the information they need, two of their senior decision makers (one medical and one non-medical) will review the evidence.
They will then make a decision whether to:
- conclude the case with no further action
- issue a warning
- agree undertakings with the doctor to address a problem with their practice
- refer the case to the Medical Practioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).
The GMC will normally only refer doctors to a MPTs hearing for serious or persistent departures from Good Medical Practice.
In deciding whether to refer a doctor they must consider their duty to protect the public which involves:
- protecting, promoting and maintaining the health, and safety and well-being of the public
- promoting and maintaining public confidence in the profession
- promoting and maintaining proper standards and conduct for doctors.
They must consider whether there is a realistic prospect of establishing that a doctor’s fitness to practise is currently impaired to a degree justifying action on their registration and will consider the following:
- if the allegations are serious enough to warrant action on the doctor’s registration; and
- whether the allegations are capable of proof to the required standard, namely that it is more likely than not that the alleged events occurred.
They must also consider whether the doctor’s failings are easily remediable, whether they have been remedied (and to what extent), and whether they are likely to be repeated.
Case examiners can recommend that the doctor is invited to comply with undertakings, without the need for a medical practitioners tribunal hearing, where that would be sufficient to protect patients and maintain public confidence.
A doctor’s fitness to practice can only be impaired by reason of:
- misconduct, examples of which include, but are not limited to:
- sexual assault
- improper sexual or emotional relationships
- serious clinical concerns
- knowingly practising without a licence
- unlawful discrimination
- gross negligence or recklessness about a risk of serious harm to patients
- deficient professional performance
- a criminal conviction or caution in the British Isles (or elsewhere for an offence which would be a criminal offence if committed in England or Wales)
- adverse physical or mental health
- a determination by a regulatory body responsible for the regulation of health and social care, either in the United Kingdom or overseas
- not having the necessary knowledge of English.
If case examiners decide there is not a realistic prospect of finding current impairment, they may still issue a warning to the doctor if there has been a significant departure from Good Medical Practice.
Fitness to Practice before the MPTS
These tribunals decide if a doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired and what action, if any, is needed.
The MPTS operates a public hearing service except where they’re considering confidential information, or information about a doctor’s health.
Their decisions are fully independent of the GMC investigation.
Tribunal members make the decisions. There are three appointed to each hearing and there must be at least one medical and one non-medical member.
Most hearings will have a legally qualified chair who sits as part of the tribunal and advises on points of law. Some cases may have a legal assessor who advises the tribunal on points of law, but plays no part in decision making.
At the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), the General Medical Council will present evidence and the doctor will also be able to give evidence. The tribunal will then determine if the facts of the allegation have been proven. If allegations are admitted or found proven, the tribunal will then determine whether or not the doctor’s fitness to practice is impaired. If they find the doctor’s fitness to practice is not currently impaired, then they can choose to either take no further action or issue a warning.
A tribunal decides if:
- the facts alleged have been found proved
- the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired
- any action should be taken.
If a medical practitioners tribunal hearing finds that a doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, it can:
- take no action
- agree to undertakings offered by the doctor at hearing
- put conditions on the doctor’s registration, which restricts what a doctor is allowed to do
- stop a doctor from working as a doctor for a set period of time (suspension)
- erase the doctor from the medical register to stop them practising (erasure).
If a tribunal hearing finds a doctor is not impaired, it may still issue a warning to the doctor if there has been a significant departure from Good medical practice.
If a tribunal concludes that the doctor’s fitness to practise is not impaired, it may issue a warning to the doctor. This is not a sanction and does not restrict the doctor’s practice.
A review hearing takes place to decide if a doctor’s fitness to practise is still impaired and whether they are safe to return to unrestricted practice.
A review ‘on the papers’ is possible at this stage, if both the doctor and the GMC agree on a proposed outcome. A decision is taken without the attendance of the doctor and the GMC.
Applications for restoration
If a doctor’s name is erased from the medical register, they can apply to restore their name after five years. A tribunal will decide if a doctor can return to unrestricted practice.
In some cases, the GMC may ask a doctor to undergo an assessment as part of their investigation.
This can be for:
- knowledge of English language.
They may also ask the doctor to provide information.
Where a doctor refuses, the GMC may refer them to us for a non-compliance hearing.
Our expertise in this area is wide-ranging and we regularly deal with the full range of fitness to practise issues, including:
- Clinical incidents
- Surgical, prescribing, and diagnostic errors
- Poor performance in professional capacity
- Criminal convictions/allegations
- Decision by regulatory body within or outside of the UK
- Alleged lack of competent knowledge of the English language to safely practice.
- Dishonesty allegations
- Misuse of drug or alcohol
- Breaches of conditions
- Fitness to practice based on a doctor’s physical or mental health
- Breaches of interim conditions of practice
A doctor could be asked to respond to a complaint, or have been summoned to a hearing before the (MPTS). Our GMC defence lawyers can help relieve the stress and advise you through this process. Olliers work with the country’s leading barristers to ensure you receive the very best in terms of representation and advocacy throughout your case and at any hearing before the MPTS.
We understand the importance of the allocation of appropriate Counsel at the earliest opportunity, ensuring that your case is properly considered and dealt with throughout by an expert with specific experience of your particular difficulty.
Olliers are able to be engaged on either an hourly rate basis or we can also offer an ‘agreed fee’ service to provide peace of mind that costs will not escalate beyond what was agreed. We would be happy to provide a bespoke quotation for your individual case.
Need a Specialist GMC Solicitor?
Should you require assistance with any matter before the GMC please contact our specialist professional disciplinary team for an initial confidential discussion as to how Olliers can assist.