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Medical practitioners tribunals

This page provides information about medical practitioners tribunal of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

Contents


Introduction

Medical practitioners tribunal hear evidence and decide whether a doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired.

Who sits on a medical practitioners tribunal?

A medical practitioners tribunal comprises medical and non-medical people appointed to inquire into allegations of impaired fitness to practise.

The tribunal members are appointed through open competition by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service against agreed competencies.

The pool of tribunal members is large (almost 300) but tribunals considering individual cases normally comprise three tribunal members.

In addition to the chairman, who may be medical or non-medical, there must be at least one medical and one non-medical tribunal members on each tribunal.

View the MPTS's current medical practitioners tribunals.

A legal assessor sits with each tribunal and advises on points of law and of mixed law and fact, including the procedure and powers of the tribunal.

One or more specialist advisers may also be present. Their role is to provide advice to the tribunal in relation to medical issues regarding a doctor’s health or performance.

View guidance for specialist advisers (pdf).

How do medical practitioners tribunal hearings work?

GMC - which brings the case against the doctor - and the doctor are both invited to attend. The GMC is normally represented at the hearing by a barrister and the doctor is usually present and legally represented.

Both parties may call witnesses to give evidence and if they do so the witness may be cross-examined by the other party. The tribunal may also put questions to the witnesses.

The tribunals meet in public, except where they are considering confidential information concerning the doctor’s health or they are considering making an interim order.

The tribunal's decision

Once the tribunal has heard the evidence, it must decide:

  • whether the facts alleged have been found proved
  • whether, on the basis of the facts found proved, the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired
  • if so, whether any action should be taken against the doctor’s registration.

If the tribunal concludes that the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, the following outcomes are available:

  • to take no action
  • to accept undertakings offered by the doctor provided the tribunal is satisfied that such undertakings protect patients and the wider public interest
  • to place conditions on the doctor’s registration
  • to suspend the doctor’s registration
  • to erase the doctor’s name from the Medical Register, so that they can no longer practise.

In deciding on the appropriate sanction the tribunal must have regard to our sanctions guidance .

The guidance aims to ensure consistency and has been welcomed by the courts which hear appeals against decisions taken by tribunals.

Warnings

If a tribunals concludes that the doctor’s fitness to practise is not impaired, it may issue a warning to the doctor.

But in order to do so the tribunal must be satisfied that there has been a significant departure from the standards set out in Good medical practice or where there is cause for concern following an assessment of the doctor’s performance.

Standard of proof and judgment

Where the tribunal makes a finding on disputed facts, it applies the civil standard of proof.

Where the tribunal decides whether or not the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, it uses its judgment. The same is true when the tribunal decides what sanction should be imposed on the doctor. 

The tribunal must be satisfied that any proposed action is sufficient to protect patients and the public interest.

Appeals

Doctors have a right of appeal to the High Court (Court of Session in Scotland) against any decision by a tribunal to restrict or remove their registration.

  • Us and the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care may also appeal certain decisions. Both organisations have the power to make an appeal should they consider that the decision was not sufficient for the protection of the public, taking into account
  • protecting the health, safety and well-being of the public
  • maintaining public confidence in the medical profession and/or
  • maintaining proper professional standards and conduct for members of that profession.

Applications for restoration

Any doctor whose name was erased from the Medical Register (the Register) by a medical practitioners tribunal can apply for their name to be restored to the Register.

Doctors cannot apply to have their name restored to the Register until after a period of five years has elapsed since the date their name was erased.

View guidance for doctors on restoration following erasure by a medical practitioners tribunal (pdf).