Editorials

Referring GMC decisions to the High Court

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7483.103 (Published 13 January 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:103
  1. Ash Samanta ([email protected]), consultant rheumatologist,
  2. Jo Samanta, lecturer in law
  1. University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester LE1 5WW
  2. De Montfort University, Leicester LE1 9BH

    Acquittal by the GMC is not necessarily an end to a doctor's case

    The General Medical Council has recently come under serious scrutiny, especially after the publication of the report by Dame Janet Smith (see BMJ 1 Jan 2005, p 10). Among its many duties, the GMC also decides if a doctor is guilty of serious professional misconduct. However, acquittal by the GMC does not mean that the case cannot be referred to the High Court. In October 2004, the Court of Appeal ruled that a doctor who had been cleared of serious professional misconduct by the GMC could still be referred to the High Court by the regulatory watchdog, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE). In one fell swoop, professional regulation has been radically and disturbingly transformed. Doctors now stand in double jeopardy.

    Disciplinary tribunals against doctors (and other healthcare professionals) share commonalities with criminal law in terms of the required standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt), and the procedure followed during a hearing. Furthermore, the prosecution has had “one bite at the cherry” to prove serious professional …

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