GMC appeals against three suspension decisions it says were too lenientBMJ 2019; 366 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l5110 (Published 09 August 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5110
All rapid responses
In June 2019, the BMJ published a news article (Ref 1) commenting that "The head of the UK General Medical Council has acknowledged that the legal advice the regulator received during the Hadiza Bawa-Garba case was incorrect" based on a BBC Radio 4 documentary and a BMJ blog by Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden (Ref 2).
I submitted a revised rapid response which pointed out, among other observations, that Mr Charlie Massey never actually apologised for his actions at that time; he simply acknowledged that the move to appeal the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS)'s decision was, with the benefit of hindsight, a mistake and he effectively blamed the (incorrect) legal advice he received, in which he felt he "had no option but to appeal that decision".
BMJ chose not to publish my rapid response.
Now we hear the news of GMC's plan to mount "appeals to the High Court against three decisions by MPTS that the regulator believes were too lenient to the doctors involved".
I am not familiar with the merits of the case for or against the doctors involved. I do emphasise while the MPTS's decisions are independent of the GMC, the MPTS is "a statutory committee of the GMC and is accountable to the GMC Council and the UK Parliament" (Ref 3). The MPTS tribunals "considering cases are made up of three tribunal members. At least one of the tribunal must be medically qualified and at least one must be a lay member. A lay member is someone that has never held a medical qualification. In most cases the chair will be legally qualified." (Ref 4)
The GMC's section 40A appeal decision against one-quarter of the MPTS's decisions in the published list for the last 6 weeks (Ref 5) is concerning; either the GMC or the MPTS will be judged wrong in the dichotomous nature of the Court of Appeals process. However the 3-member GMC panel's to appeal MPTS's decisions places significant onus on the internal legal advice the GMC panel had, keeping in mind that their legal advisors would need to go through the relevant tribunal proceedings and evidence to advise the panel within a short time (in all 3 cases, within 3 weeks of MPTS's decision).
The decision to appeal MPTS's decision is a serious matter, and I have no doubt the GMC section 40A appeal panel performed their task with the appropriate vigour. However there are justifiable concerns about how the panel made their decision and what legal advice they had taken to consider, hence the current move to require the PSA consultation for future appeals against MPTS decisions.
The leopard did not change its spots; while the GMC continues to exercise its (currently) mandated power to appeal MPTS decisions if and when it sees fit, the current spate of appeals does nothing to reassure doctors of any change of behaviour or reflective practice within the GMC's culture.
Competing interests: No competing interests