Proposals for a tribunal within the GMC to continue adjudicating on doctors’ fitness to practise are not sufficiently independent, a defence body has claimed.
The MDU told a government consultation that it’s vital that any tribunal is genuinely independent from the GMC and said it did not see how this could be achieved in the preferred option.
The previous administration wanted to transfer adjudication to a new Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator, with the GMC just retaining its role in investigating and prosecuting fitness to practise cases. The separation of these functions was first proposed by Dame Janet Smith in the Shipman Inquiry.
However, as part of the “bonfire of quangos”, the new government’s preferred option is to bin the fledgling OHPA and let the GMC to continue to decide on the sanctions imposed on doctors through a separate disciplinary tribunal.
Dr Mike Devlin, head of advisory services at the MDU, said: “While we support the motivation for the suggestion that the GMC could set up a separate disciplinary tribunal, we do not see that such a body, which would remain under the auspices of the GMC, will ever be sufficiently independent. We are also concerned that attempts to try to make it independent will be more costly than the current system, with doctors having to bear these additional costs.
“Our support for a separate adjudicatory body was based not only on the principle of independence, but was also borne out of our frustration with regulators’ fitness to practise procedures a few years ago. Happily, things have moved on and more recently the GMC has been willing to discuss changes to its procedures, for example to case management and the conduct of fitness to practise cases. This change in the GMC’s approach goes some way to meeting some of our past concerns and we welcome the GMC’s proposals for more independent adjudication in the consultation document. We consider their willingness to consider legal chairs, to be central to any improvements in the procedure.”
The MPS is also disappointed by the government’s preferred option and said there should in effect be an OHPA within the GMC “with an independently appointed president and an independent doctors’ disciplinary tribunal, ideally within the remit of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council”.
The government is to abolish 192 government agencies, merging another 118 and substantially reforming a further 171.