FITNESS to practise rulings judged too lenient will be subject to appeal by the GMC under new changes to the Medical Act.
Parliament has approved the changes which will allow the GMC to appeal tribunal rulings handed down by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), which operates separately from the GMC. This would apply in fitness to practise cases in which the regulator considers rulings do not sufficiently protect the public.
Reform of the Act will also establish the MPTS as a statutory body.
In addition, there will be changes in the way complaints about doctors are handled, including streamlining fitness to practise procedures, the introduction of legally qualified chairs for some tribunals, and giving power to the tribunals to award costs against the GMC or the doctor if either has “not complied with directions and has behaved unreasonably”.
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: “The new right of appeal and the establishment of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service as a statutory body are major reforms in UK professional regulation. They will reinforce our separation from the tribunal service and our role as a patient safety organisation which brings the most serious cases to the tribunal service for adjudication.
“These changes will also help us streamline our investigations, reduce the time it takes to deal with complaints and make our procedures faster, fairer and more efficient.”
He added: “While this is an important step forward, there is still a need for fundamental reform.
“The law that governs the regulation of healthcare professionals is outdated and change is overdue. The draft Bill produced for the government by the Law Commissions of the UK would allow us to be more responsive and better serve the needs of patients and support improvements in medical practice. We hope this change in the law will be introduced as soon as possible after the General Election.”
The GMC has launched a consultation on new and amended rules which will be needed to implement changes to the law. The results will be published in summer 2015 and then presented to Parliament for approval.
His Honour David Pearl, Chair of the MPTS, said: “The changes we are proposing will strengthen our pre-hearing case management, meaning less time is lost in hearings to legal argument.
“This is the next step in creating a modern and efficient tribunal service for the medical profession, operationally separate from the GMC’s role in investigating complaints.”