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Practice makes perfect: refining the rules that judge safe medicine

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 31 July 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3113
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

    Clare Dyer explains how four recent judgments forced the General Medical Council to change its rules on what evidence can be submitted at fitness to practise hearings

    New fitness to practise rules that came into force on 1 August will allow the General Medical Council to dismiss vexatious complaints at an early stage, among other changes. But for doctors who fall foul of the UK regulator, a much more important development is a recent run of High Court cases that has forced it to reform a key element of its process.

    The four High Court judgments, in the cases of Drs Cohen, Azzam, Zygmunt, and Cheatle, resolve a conflict of view that arose after a 2005 reform of the GMC’s procedures. This shifted the focus from whether serious professional misconduct happened in the past to whether a doctor’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

    The GMC took the view that in deciding whether fitness to practise is impaired (stage two of the process), disciplinary panels should not look at the doctor’s career since the incident or incidents complained of. That was mitigation …

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