The Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) – working alongside their affiliates in a number of other doctor-led advocacy and lobbying groups, including the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, Doctors for Progress, Doctors in Unite, GP Survival, Health Campaigns Together, the Independent Health Professionals Association, and Manslaughter in Healthcare – has taken steps to alert the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, to their significant concerns regarding the recent and ongoing actions of the General Medical Council (GMC).
These concerns relate to cases being brought to the Court of Appeal by the GMC in an attempt to overrule the findings of doctors’ tribunal proceedings, in order to have doctors erased from the medical register. DAUK and its affiliates are calling for the Health Secretary to undertake an urgent review of the current and ongoing actions of the GMC, and to put a stop to such appeals being brought, pending a review of relevant legislation.
This call for action has come following the landmark case involving Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba. The GMC had sought to overturn a decision made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), in order to erase Dr Bawa-Garba from the medical register. To the relief of the medical profession, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the GMC’s case, and ruled that Dr Bawa-Garba ought to be reinstated to the medical register, thus allowing her to continue to work as a doctor.
The Bawa-Garba case resulted in the launch of the Williams Review, with recommendations being made in June of 2018. Professor Norman Williams stated that the GMC ought to have its right to appeal MPTS verdicts removed, and noted that granting the GMC this right of appeal in 2015 had come with significant unwelcome and unintended consequences. DAUK concludes that the GMC cannot be trusted to take a balanced and considered approach in placing sanctions upon doctors in circumstances such as those faced by Dr Bawa- Garba – doctors making honest mistakes in the context of system failure.
The Doctors’ Association UK are alarmed to learn that, despite the outcome of the Bawa-Garba case, along with the recommendations of the Williams Review, the GMC has continued to appeal MPTS verdicts in the courts. Within the last weeks, the GMC has been urged to show “restraint”, and judges have expressed “regret” at such cases having been brought to the Court of Appeal. DAUK understands that there are a further four appeals due to be heard, all of which involve the GMC appealing to overturn tribunal verdicts.
The Doctors’ Association UK believes that the continuation of such unchecked action by the GMC will lead to a further breakdown in trust between the medical profession and its regulator, with a progressive move towards a culture of fear and blame, rather than one of learning. DAUK urges the Health Secretary to request that the GMC halts its appeals against MPTS verdicts forthwith. Furthermore, DAUK asks the Health Secretary to confirm that the recommendations of the Williams review will be upheld, and that the relevant changes to legislation are made without delay.