Doctors are required to adhere to Good Medical Practice published by the General Medical Council (GMC). Failure to do so may lead to a GMC fitness to practise investigation and a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) Fitness to Practise Panel hearing, which can result in conditions on your GMC registration, a suspension of your registration or erasure from the medical register, all of which can have devastating consequences for your career.
Whether you have been accused of impairment of fitness to practise on the grounds of deficient professional performance, ill health, misconduct, knowledge of English or convictions, our lawyers are on hand to provide advice and representation.
Our solicitors are specialists in professional discipline and can provide you with advice and assistance through all the proceedings, from initial referral to the GMC through to a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing. To speak to a member of the Burton Copeland team, you can either call us on 0161 827 9500, or fill in our contact form and we will get back to you.
What we can help you with
Our team assists doctors facing investigation, including those employed by a hospital and General Practitioners. In addition, we regularly represent those doctors accused of committing criminal offences and those asked to give evidence at a Coroner’s Inquest. We also assist GP Practices and GPs in relation to NHS England investigations, Performer’s List proceedings and First Tier Tribunal Appeals.
No matter what the circumstances of your case, we can assist you by:
- Advising you on the relevant legislation
- Preparing responses on your behalf
- Providing guidance on the acceptance of warnings and undertakings
- Advising on whether to request an Investigation Committee hearing
- Preparing for and providing representation at all MPTS hearings
- Appealing to the High Court following MPTS decisions
- Advising you in relation to NHS England investigations
- Preparing for and representing you at Performance Advisory Group hearings of NHS England
- Advising you on your evidence, including witness statements, provided to the Coroner’s Court
- Representing you at the police station
- Preparing you for and defending you in the criminal courts
- Advising on and preparing for Disclosure and Barring list representations
- Assisting overseas qualified doctors and UK medical graduates to obtain GMC registration in the UK
Frequently asked questions for doctors facing investigation by the gmc
Doctors facing allegations of impairment of fitness to practise on the basis of misconduct, deficient professional performance, health, knowledge of English or conviction may face an investigation by the GMC, which may ultimately lead to an MPTS Fitness to Practise Panel hearing.
For many, having your fitness to practise questioned will be a new experience, making it all the more stressful. For others, who have been in this position before, knowing what to expect may not necessarily make this situation any easier. Our experienced team are experts in representing doctors facing allegations of impairment of fitness to practise and have found the questions outlined below to be the most frequently asked during proceedings.
If you require more information on any of the answers below, or we have not answered your question, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us either by calling 0161 827 9500 or by filling in our contact form.
What should I do when I have been notified of a GMC investigation into my fitness to practise?
Many doctors make the mistake of contacting the GMC following receipt of a notification of investigation. Speaking to the GMC enables the GMC to use what is said against you and you may, inadvertently, prejudice your own case. Your first port of call should always be to contact a credible and reputable defence solicitor at Burton Copeland to review your case to ensure that you receive the best possible advice at the earliest possible opportunity.
How does the investigation process work?
When an investigation begins, you will be informed about the complaint in writing by the GMC, given an opportunity to comment on it and asked to provide details of your employer or contracting body, so that a full picture can be built about your work. How an investigation progresses will depend on the nature of the complaint, but may include:
- gathering evidence from the complainant and any other parties;
- seeking witness statements from the complainant, patients or other witnesses;
- seeking comments about your work from your employers/colleagues;
- assessing your health;
- assessing your knowledge of English;
- assessing your performance
Once the GMC has completed its preliminary investigation, there will be another opportunity for you to comment on specific allegations before a decision is made whether to progress your case or to close it with no further action.
If a response is required, please contact our team who will ensure that your case is put forward in the best possible light, without the risk of prejudice, which may be caused if you decide to respond yourself.
What sanctions can the GMC or MPTS impose?
Once the preliminary investigation has been carried out and you have been provided with the opportunity to provide your response, one medical and one non-medical case examiner will make a decision on what action should be taken. This can include:
- concluding the case with no further action;
- concluding the case with a letter of advice;
- issuing a warning;
- referring you to the MPTS for a Fitness to Practise Panel hearing;
- offering voluntary conditions on your registration, which must be met, also known as undertakings.
If you are issued with a warning, this will remain public and will be published on the List of Registered Medical Practitioners for a period of two years. Thereafter, any warning will become available to potential employers enquiring about your fitness to practise history indefinitely. Should you wish to challenge the imposition of a warning, our specialist GMC solicitors can assist you by advising you on the merits of taking the case to the Investigation Committee and preparing for this GMC hearing should you decide that you wish to challenge the GMC’s decision to impose the warning.
Undertakings are restrictions on your practice and can include:
- practising under supervision;
- restricting your areas of practice;
- restricting the patients you can see;
- prohibiting or limiting on-call work;
- prohibiting or limiting locum work.
If your case progresses to an MPTS Fitness to Practise Panel hearing and impairment of fitness is found, the following sanctions are available to the Panel:
- Conditions can be imposed on your registration for a period of up to three years;
- A suspension of your registration can be imposed for a maximum period of 12 months;
- Your name can be erased from the medical register and you will not be allowed to apply for re-registration for a period of five years.
Erasure of your name from the medical register is not a sanction available to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service if your case relates solely to either your ill health or your knowledge of English.
Any sanctions imposed at an MPTS Fitness to Practise Panel usually come into effect 28 days after you have been notified of the decision, either on the day of the hearing if you are present or when the notification has been deemed to have taken place if you are not present at the hearing. However, if the Tribunal considers it to be necessary, a sanction can be made immediate, notwithstanding the 28-day appeal period.
Our specialist team of solicitors can assist you at any stage of a GMC investigation.
Am I able to continue working during an investigation?
In some cases, you are able to continue working while an investigation is being carried out. However, at any point during the investigation, the GMC can refer you to an MPTS Interim Orders Tribunal (IOT) hearing, which can impose restrictions on your registration, known as conditions, or a suspension of your registration which will prohibit you from working as a doctor throughout the GMC’s investigation. At this hearing, the MPTS will decide whether or not it is necessary to impose an order of either conditions or a suspension in the interim while the GMC investigates the case against you. Such decisions are made on the basis of very specific tests and not on the evidence or facts of any particular case.
It is therefore important that you contact the specialist team at Burton Copeland as soon as you receive a notification of an Interim Orders Tribunal hearing so that we can help to ensure the best outcome for you.
How long do investigations take?
Investigations usually last several months due to the complexity and seriousness of these types of allegations. On occasions, advice is also required from experts, which may elongate proceedings. The GMC may also ask you to take part in a Performance Assessment, a Health Assessment, or an assessment of your knowledge of English, all of which will add time to the length of any investigation into your fitness to practise. Although we will endevour to resolve matters as quickly as possible, our main focus is making sure you get the outcome you desire.
Can I appeal a decision?
Once a decision has been made by the MPTS, you have 28 days to lodge an appeal to the High Court or to the Court of Session if you are registered in Scotland.
Since December 2015, the GMC also has the right to appeal decisions made by the MPTS.
A warning can be disputed at an early stage in the investigation by the doctor requesting that the matter be considered by the Investigation Committee.
If you are facing an appeal of an MPTS decision brought by the GMC or if you want to appeal a decision made by the GMC or MPTS, it’s advisable to speak to a member of our professional discipline team as soon as possible after notification of the decision, if you have not done so already.
Contact Burton Copeland today
If you are a doctor facing an investigation into your fitness to practise or a MPTS Fitness to Practise Panel hearing, or if you seek advice on any of the other areas outlined above, please ensure that you speak to one of our professional discipline solicitors in Manchester today by calling 0161 827 9500, or fill in our contact form and we will get back to you. If you need to contact us out of office hours, you can call 0161 832 7834. You can be assured that your case will be handled sensitively and confidentially.