General Medical Council: powers of appeal

Since December 2015 the General Medical Council (“GMC”) has had the power under Section 40A of the Medical Act 1983 to appeal decisions made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (“MPTS”) but since this power has been available to the GMC, nearly two years ago, it has only been exercised twice.

The first time was in the case of General Medical Council v Jagjivan [2017] EWHC 1247 (Admin). This was the case of a cardiology registrar who allegedly, in consultation with a female patient, suggested sexual ways in which she could increase her heart rate and used his hand in an inappropriate and sexual manner when referring to intimate areas of the patient’s body.

The MPTS Fitness to Practise Panel found the allegations proved against Dr Jagjivan and believed Patient A’s version of events but found that his conduct was not sexually motivated. The Tribunal decided not to make a finding of impairment of fitness to practise in relation to this case.

The GMC then appealed this decision. This appeal was supported by the Professional Standards Authority which oversees the decisions of all of health regulators in the UK.

The appeal was upheld and the High Court found that the Tribunal had been wrong to determine that Dr Jagjivan’s statements and actions in relation to a partially dressed patient were not sexually motivated. The matter was remitted back to another MPTS Fitness to Practise Panel in order to determine whether impairment was to be found and if so, to determine what sanction was appropriate.

More recently in the case of General Medical Council v Theodoropoulos [2017] EWHC 1984 (Admin), the High Court again upheld the appeal of a decision made by the MPTS brought by the GMC.

In this case, heard and decided at the High Court on 31 July 2017, the facts as alleged were that Dr Theodoropoulos had practised as a Consultant Ophthalmologist in the UK until his registration lapsed in 2005. He then worked in private practice in Greece until March 2015 when his name re-appeared on the GMC register.

It was alleged at the Fitness to Practise Panel that Dr Theodoropoulos had used computer software to amend the GMC’s register of medical practitioners to show that he was registered with the GMC and then provided a printed out copy of this page to a locum agency when seeking employment.

The allegations were found proved and a 12 month suspension was imposed on Dr Theodoropoulos’ registration.

The GMC appealed this decision stating that the MPTS’ decision had been too lenient and Dr Theodoropoulous’ name ought to have been erased from the medical register.

The High Court upheld the GMC’s appeal concluding that the MPTS had been wrong to find that suspension was an appropriate and proportionate sanction. Mr Justice Lewis, hearing this case, then substituted the MPTS suspension with a decision to erase Mr Theodoropoulos’ name from the medical register, stating as follows:

Given the nature of the dishonest conduct, the denials of the respondent, and the absence of any evidence of insight or remediation, it is difficult to regard the possibility of developing insight or remediation as a basis upon which it could be said that suspension was appropriate.”

It remains to be seen how often the GMC will use its powers to appeal decisions made by the MPTS. However, so far, in just under two years, this power has been used twice and on both occasions the GMC has had its appeals successfully upheld.

Of course, doctors against whom decisions have been made by the MPTS also have the right to appeal under the Medical Act 1983.

If you are a doctor facing a GMC investigation or an MPTS Fitness to Practise Panel please contact our specialist team of solicitors who are here to help.

We can also represent you if you wish to appeal a decision of the MPTS or indeed if you a party to any other appeal proceedings following an MPTS fitness to practise panel.

Contact us today on 0161 827 9500.