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Doctors run the gauntlet of having tribunal findings appealed by the GMC

The case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba has been significant for the profession for a number of reasons.

As a result of this highly emotive case, the Williams’ review has recommended an overhaul of the processes for investigating doctors for gross negligence manslaughter and there has been new joint guidance on how doctors should complete their reflective notes.

Crucially, the case has also highlighted the GMC’s powers to appeal the findings of fitness to practise tribunal decisions, particularly those that find in a doctor’s favour.

In the MDU’s experience, doctors are profoundly affected by fitness to practise proceedings and, understandably, considerably relieved to learn the tribunal has made a finding in their favour. Most doctors don’t understand they are still in peril of having this finding appealed and many think this is unfair.

Where we believe that the GMC is wrong to have appealed an MPTS finding, we will defend the member all the way, as was recently demonstrated when we successfully supported a doctor at the Court of Appeal in a case which upheld a fitness to practise tribunal finding.

The original decision of the tribunal was that our member, a locum paediatric registrar, was able to continue practising, albeit with a warning, and that his fitness to practise was not impaired.

However, the GMC appealed that decision to the High Court which substituted its own finding of impairment and sent the case back to the MPTS to consider the sanction to impose.

The MDU successfully assisted the doctor to appeal that decision.

In the Court of Appeal ruling Lord Justice Bean expressed “regret” that the High Court decision had been brought and commented that while the GMC’s discretion to appeal is a wide one “it is a discretion to be exercised with restraint where it involves a challenge to a finding of fact in the practitioner’s favour”.

The same judge also said of the original tribunal: “They were well placed to make an evaluative judgment of the nuances of how the various individuals had interacted and that judgment should have been accorded great weight, not only by the court but by the GMC in deciding whether to bring an appeal at all.”

This is an important judgment for our member and for all doctors involved in fitness to practise hearings. This case addressed an important point of principle, as well as vindicating our member and we are pleased the appeal was successful.

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