Who can complain about a doctor?
Concerns about doctors are generally raised by patients, colleagues or employers.
When can the GMC take action?
The GMC will only investigate cases against doctors where an allegation suggests that a doctor’s fitness to practise may be impaired. This may be for a number of reasons, such as:
- Poor performance;
- A criminal conviction or caution;
- Health; or
- A determination by another regulatory body.
How will I know I’m under investigation?
The first time a doctor may be aware that they are the subject of a GMC investigation, may be following receipt of a letter from the GMC, notifying the doctor that a complaint or information has been received and inviting comments from the doctor in 28 days. Under the GMC’s rules this letter is called a Rule 4 letter.
Rule 4 letter
If you receive a Rule 4 letter from the GMC, contact one of our GMC solicitors on the Medic Assistance Scheme for urgent advice.
A tactical decision will need to be made with you as to whether or not to reply to the GMC at this stage. If it is appropriate to reply, the content of the response needs to be prepared carefully, as any comment made at this preliminary stage of the investigation will be compared with later submissions and any inconsistencies will be detrimental to a doctor’s case.
At this preliminary stage in the investigation the GMC will not disclose the full facts of the allegation. Therefore there will still be an opportunity for a doctor to provide a full response at a later stage, once the precise nature of the allegations and the evidence which the GMC have, is known.
How long will the investigation take?
The length of an investigation varies from case to case. It can take several months, particularly in a complex clinical case.
Rule 7 Letter
Once the GMC has investigated an allegation which merits further action and they have gathered evidence and formulated specific allegations, they will write to the doctor with a further invitation to provide comments before the Case Examiners make their decision about the case. Under the GMC’s rules, this letter is called a Rule 7 letter.
If you have received a Rule 7 letter and are contemplating your response, please contact one of the solicitors on the Medic Assistance Scheme for urgent advice.
Case Examiner’s Review
On receipt of a Rule 7 response or when the time limit to respond expires, the Case Examiners will consider the allegations and the doctor’s response and decide what the appropriate course of action should be. At this stage, the Case Examiners have the power to make any of the following decisions:
- Conclude the case with no further action;
- Issue a warning;
- Agree undertakings with the doctor;
- Refer the case to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) for a Fitness to Practise Panel Hearing to be listed.
The GMC may issue a warning in the event that they consider that a doctor has significantly departed from the standards set out in Good Medical Practise, but that the doctor’s fitness to practise is not impaired.
If the Case Examiners are minded to issue a doctor with a warning, the doctor will need to decide if they wish to accept the warning, or challenge this before the Investigation Committee.
If you have received an indication from Case Examiners that they are minded to issue you with a warning, please contact one of the solicitors on the Medic Assistance Scheme for advice on your position and the implications of accepting a warning.
If a doctor does not wish to accept a warning, for example where a doctor disputes the facts upon which the offer of a warning is given, then an Investigating Committee can hear the evidence, make a finding on the facts and decide if a warning is the appropriate cause of action, or if the case should be concluded with no action taken.
In exceptional circumstances, the Investigating Committee can refer a case to the Fitness to Practise Panel, if new evidence comes to light during the course of the hearing.
If you are considering requesting an Investigation Committee to consider your case or you already have a date for a hearing before an Investigation Committee, please contact one of the solicitors on the Medic Assistance Scheme for expert advice on your position.
The Case Examiners can agree undertakings with a doctor. An undertaking is essentially a legally enforceable agreement between a doctor and the GMC, whereby the doctor agrees to take or refrain from specified action.
An undertaking is regarded as a consensual disposal of a case, however, the ramifications of having given an undertaking is serious and should not be entered into lightly.
If you have been asked by the GMC to consider offering undertakings or you think this may be a route worth considering please contact one of the solicitors on the MedicAssistanceScheme for expert GMC legal advice on your position.
To find out more about the GMC use the menu above or the following links:
To find out more about the GMC use the menu above or the
To find out more about the GMC use the following links:
To find out
more about the GMC use the following links:
- Background to the GMC
- GMC Registration
- GMC Trust Disciplinary
- GMC Interim Orders Panel
- GMC Fitness to Practise
- GMC Criminal Proceedings
- GMC Revalidation
- GMC Restoration
- GMC Appeals
- GMC Inquests
or, if you have a specific problem with which you require assistance from a specialist doctor defence lawyer, contact the AssistanceScheme by calling us on 084 4804 4805,
by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by requesting a call back using the link on the home page.