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Views sought on new tribunal service to run doctors’ hearings

17 April 2011

A new tribunal service for doctors facing serious concerns about their practice is at the heart of major reforms being proposed by the General Medical Council.

The GMC is seeking views on its plans to establish the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service which would take responsibility for running hearings and for the decisions panels make.

The aim is for the new Tribunal Service to be separate from the GMC’s work in investigating cases and presenting them to the Tribunal.

The Tribunal Service would be led by an independent Chair with significant judicial experience.

Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the GMC, said:

“Panels already make their own decisions and they do not always accept what the GMC proposes. But we believe we can enhance this autonomy and make it absolutely clear that the appointment and management of panels and the monitoring of their decisions are all under independent control. It will also mean a clear separation between our investigation work and hearings.

“Only a very small proportion of doctors come before a hearing, but for those who do it can have significant consequences. It is vital we get this right and we are looking forward to hearing responses to our ideas.”

The GMC’s consultation also contains proposals for a number of reforms to modernise the hearing process. These include the use of legally qualified chairs and more effective management of cases as they are prepared for the hearing stage. These are designed to speed up the process and reduce the stress for everyone involved.

The consultation follows the Government’s decision not to proceed with the establishment of the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA).

The GMC is consulting separately on major changes to the way fitness to practise cases are dealt with at the end of an investigation – these are designed to encourage doctors to accept our proposed sanctions in order to protect the public without the need to refer the case for a hearing, thereby reducing the stress for all involved.

Together, these proposals represent a radical set of reforms that should make the entire fitness to practise process simpler and swifter.

The consultation is open until Monday 13 June. Full details are available at www.gmc-uk.org/ftpreformconsultation