When you’re hauled before the GMC

In the second of two articles on GMC investigations, Dr Ellie Mein explains how to cope with a fitness-to-practise hearing.

Fear is a natural reaction for any doctor notified of a GMC investigation. Many doctors tell us their first thought is of erasure.

Of course, that can happen, but for the majority of doctors subject to a GMC investigation, the prospect is remote. 

GMC fitness-to-practise (FTP) statistics for 2018 show fewer than 70 erasures and 101 suspensions. 

One of the main roles of medico-legal advisers is to put that fear into context and to explain the procedure along with guiding and supporting doctors with the complexities of the process. 

In 2019, at the MDU we resolved 86% of GMC cases, handled by in-house lawyers, without a formal hearing.

In our article in the September issue of Independent Practitioner Today, we looked at the GMC investigation process and what to expect at each stage. This time, we will look at what to expect if you face a FTP hearing or receive a warning or undertakings.

Warning issued

Warnings can be issued in cases where allegations do not justify referral to an FTP tribunal, but there is evidence to suggest behaviour or performance has fallen below standard and warrants a formal sanction. 

Of the 1,208 case examiner decisions made in 2018, 69 of these resulted in a warning.

Before issuing a warning, the GMC asks for comments. However, if no comments are made or the doctor does not dispute the allegations, two case examiners may agree a warning.

If a warning is not accepted or the case examiners consider it appropriate, the complaint will proceed to an investigation committee hearing. Such hearings are rare, though. It may also decide to issue a warning, conclude a case with no sanction or refer a case to an FTP tribunal.