Our expert GMC lawyers have an excellent, proven track record of successfully defending doctors in GMC investigations. We understand how significant an investigation is to a doctor and will work tirelessly to ensure that allegations are robustly defended.
What issues can a GMC investigation relate to?
A GMC investigation will examine a doctor’s fitness to practise. An investigation usually follows a complaint by an NHS Trust, other doctors, employers, members of the public, or the police.
An investigation examines if a doctor’s fitness to practise may be impaired due to:
• Poor performance;
• A criminal conviction or caution;
• Health; or
• A determination by another regulatory body.
Criminal proceedings can leave doctors in a vulnerable situation with the GMC, especially if they have already been advised to accept police cautions without appreciating the full ramifications of doing so.
It is, therefore, better for doctors to obtain advice on criminal investigations and proceedings from us, rather than from a general criminal lawyer. We understand both the criminal proceedings and the GMC and are therefore acutely aware of how one can impact on the other. Our advice will be given mindful of the significance of a criminal conviction or caution to a doctor, both personally and professionally.
The MedicAssistanceScheme works collaboratively with a specialist lawyer who can advise you on the potential for an application to remove a criminal caution from your record where appropriate. If successful, such an application will improve the position for a doctor when dealing with the GMC.
Our expert solicitors can provide legal representation for doctors in the police station, the Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court. We have access to the country’s top barristers, including QCs, as well as leading defence experts. We work tirelessly to defend a doctor who is facing criminal proceedings, to ensure that a doctor has the best possible prospect of avoiding a criminal conviction or caution.
How will I know I’m under a GMC investigation?
The GMC will write to the doctor, to notify them that a GMC investigation has commenced. The GMC will outline the nature of their investigation and will invite comments from the doctor. Any comments should be sent within 28 days. This letter is referred to as a ‘Rule 4 letter.’
Rule 4 letter
If you receive a Rule 4 letter from the GMC, you should contact us for urgent advice. A tactical decision will need to be made as to whether to respond to the GMC’s investigation at this early stage.
If it is appropriate to respond to the allegations at this stage, the content of the response needs to be prepared carefully. Any comment made at this stage in a GMC investigation will be compared with later submissions and scrutinised against evidence subsequently collated. Any inconsistencies will be detrimental to a doctor’s case.
At this stage the GMC will not disclose the full facts of the allegation, as they will not have collated all the evidence. Therefore there will be a later opportunity to respond, once the precise nature of the allegations and the evidence gathered in the GMC investigation has been disclosed.
How long will a GMC investigation take?
The length of an investigation varies. It can take several months, particularly in a complex clinical case, or where there are related criminal proceedings.
Rule 7 letter
Once their investigation has been concluded, the GMC will write to the doctor again. This time they will disclose specific allegations and they will provide a copy of all the evidence that supports their case. This letter is referred to as a ‘Rule 7 letter.’
On receipt of a Rule 7 letter, most doctors should, at this stage, respond to the allegations in writing. It is essential to get legal advice from an experienced GMC lawyer before submitting any written response to the GMC. We have the advantage of being objective and our experience enables us to find the appropriate tone for the response.
If you have received a Rule 7 letter and are contemplating your response in a GMC investigation, please contact us 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 decide how to progress the GMC investigation.
At this stage, the Case Examiners may:
• 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.
Warnings as an outcome of an investigation
After an investigation, the GMC may issue a warning if a doctor has been found to have significantly departed from the standards set out in Good Medical Practice, but their fitness to practise is not impaired.
If a warning is offered, a doctor will need to decide if they wish to accept it as a resolution. If a doctor does not wish to accept a warning, they can ask to be referred to the GMC Investigation Committee.
There are pros and cons to asking the GMC’s Investigation Committee to review whether a warning is necessary.
If you have received an offer of a warning as an outcome of a GMC investigation, please contact us for urgent advice on how best to proceed.
GMC Investigation Committee
If a doctor does not wish to accept a warning, for example, they dispute the factual allegations, they can refer their case to the GMC Investigation Committee. The GMC Investigation Committee can hear evidence, make a factual finding and decide if a warning is appropriate, or if the case should be concluded with no action.
In exceptional circumstances, a GMC Investigation Committee can refer a case to the MPTS for a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing, but only if new evidence has come to light during the hearing.
If you are considering requesting a GMC Investigation Committee to consider your case, or you already have a hearing listed before a GMC Investigation Committee, please contact us for independent legal advice.
Undertakings as an outcome of a GMC investigation
The GMC’s Case Examiners can agree undertakings with a doctor as an outcome of a GMC investigation. An undertaking is a legally enforceable agreement between a doctor and the GMC, where a doctor agrees to take or refrain from specified action. An undertaking is regarded as a consensual disposal of a GMC case. However, the ramifications of undertakings are serious and should not be agreed to without proper consideration.
For more information on possible outcomes, read our full guide to MPTS sanctions.