Hospital Dr News

Williams Review: GMC should not be able to appeal against findings of MPTS hearings

Doctors may no longer face ‘double jeopardy’ when being investigated by the GMC.

A key recommendation of Prof Sir Norman Williams, in his review of gross negligence manslaughter, says the GMC should no longer be able to appeal against the findings of doctors’ disciplinary hearings by the MPTS.

The Health Secretary has offered his support to the recommendations.

The review was prompted following the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who was struck off after the death of a six-year-old boy.

The MPTS suspended her for 12-months, but the GMC pursued the case in the High Court and succeeded in having her struck off.

Many in the profession were outraged that an individual was highlighted in a case involving systemic failures, and said it would undermine attempts to create an open culture of learning in the NHS.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, commented: “The BMA has long-opposed the right of the GMC to appeal fitness-to-practise decisions. We know that doctors going through this process find it stressful enough, in many cases leading to anxiety and depression, without the added worry that any decisions made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) can be overridden by the GMC taking the case to a higher court. Therefore, we are glad that to hear the Secretary of State announce that the regulator will no longer have this right. Removing this right brings arrangements for doctors in line with that of other healthcare professionals, where this responsibility rests with the Professional Standards Authority.

He added: “Doctors must feel able to report errors and reflect on their own mistakes openly, without the fear of these reflections being used against them at a later stage. Only then can true improvements to patient safety be made.

“While the assurance that regulators will no longer be able to request reflective material during their investigations is a welcome step, we still believe they should be given full legal protection, which would foster an open environment to apply systemic analysis to adverse events to improve patient safety.”

Other recommendations from the Williams review include:

  • the investigation of every hospital death by a medical examiner or coroner
  • data on doctors’ performance will allow them to see how they compare to others to help them improve

Professor Norman Williams who conducted the review said that “a clearer understanding” of when manslaughter charges should be brought in healthcare “should lead to fewer criminal investigations”.

Professor Williams said criminal investigation should be confined “to just those rare cases where an individual’s performance is so ‘truly exceptionally bad’ that it requires a criminal sanction”.

Read the review.

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