The proposed order The General Medical Council (Fitness to Practise etc.) and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (Referrals to Court) Order 2014 amends the Medical Act 1983 and Health Care Professions Act 2002.
The reforms are in part designed to increase the separation between the investigation of and adjudication of cases. The GMC has already taken steps to bring about the separation of functions by establishing the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service ("MPTS") to adjudicate on cases. The proposals involve changes to legislation which would establish the MPTS as a statutory committee of the GMC with specified powers, responsibilities and duties, meaning that any future changes would have to be approved by parliament.
There are a large number of further proposed changes. Some of the highlights are that there will be provision for reviews without a hearing where both parties are in agreement as to the outcome, and also provision for preliminary hearings which a number of other regulators such as the General Dental Council and General Optical Council already have. The proposed changes would also give some "teeth" to the GMC's case management powers by the introduction of consequences for failure to comply with rules and directions including refusal to admit evidence, the drawing of adverse inferences and the award of costs. The proposals also include provision for costs to be awarded for "unreasonable behaviour".
There is express provision for health assessments alongside performance assessments and the GMC would also have power to require practitioners to provide information as part of investigations and to impose suspension or conditions if a doctor does not comply. There is also express provision for the rejection of vexatious allegations.
There is a proposal that the GMC should have the power to appeal against fitness to practise decisions (to add to the current power enjoyed by the PSA). The GMC and PSA would not both be appeal a decision but, under the proposals, each will be able to apply to become an interested party in appeal proceedings brought by the other party and, as part of the application, will be able to seek to add to the grounds on which the appeal is being brought.
It is proposed that the grounds of appeal for the PSA be amended to introduce a new ground that a determination is not sufficient (whether as to a finding or a penalty or both) to protect the public. The new proposed right of appeal for the GMC reflects this change The PSA can of course currently appeal on the grounds of "undue lenience". . Consideration of whether a decision is sufficient for the protection of the public involves consideration of whether it is sufficient to protect the health, safety and well-being of the public to maintain public confidence in the profession concerned; or to maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of that profession.
The closing date for the consultation is 25 September 2014.