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GMC launches impartial tribunal service

12 June 2012

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A new tribunal service for doctors has been launched by the General Medical Council (GMC) to take over all its fitness to practise cases.

In the biggest shake-up of fitness to practise hearings since they were first established in 1858, a new impartial adjudication function for doctors has been formed.

Based in Manchester, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) will be accountable to Parliament.

Part of the GMC, the MPTS will be operationally separate from the regulator’s complaint handling, investigation and case presentation.

From today (11 June) the new tribunal service will take over all fitness to practise cases relating to GMC registered doctors and will be tasked with deciding the action to be taken against those doctors found to be guilty of malpractice.

MPTS panels can, in the most serious cases, remove or suspend a doctor from the medical register or place restrictions on their practise.

The MPTS will be Chaired by former President of the Care Standards Tribunal and Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission His Honour David Pearl.

Pearl is expected to concentrate his efforts on making improvements to the way MPTS panellists are trained and performance managed through regular appraisal and quality assurance, which he claims will bolster the quality of decision making.  

Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the GMC, said he hopes the GMC’s reforms will strengthen professional and public confidence in its fitness to practise hearings. 

“The launch of the MPTS is the biggest change to doctors’ fitness to practise hearings for more than 150 years,” he said.

“It represents a key part of our reforms and delivers a clear separation between investigations and the decisions made about a doctor’s fitness to practise.

“Although panels already make their decisions independently, it is important that their autonomy is clear and that the oversight of their work is quite separate from our investigatory activity.

“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.” 

Bill McMillan, Head of Medical Pay and Workforce at the NHS Employers Organisation, praised the “much improved system” and said it is a “significant step away” from the previous “cumbersome processes”.

The GMC is currently seeking parliamentary approval for the right to appeal when it does not agree with the decision of a particular panel, which is expected to be effective in 2013.