Help for witnesses - Before attending the hearing
When an allegation is made about a doctor, we have to decide whether the case should proceed to a hearing in front of a fitness to practise panel.
If the doctor disputes the allegations, or for some other reason the case is to be heard by a panel, witnesses may be called to provide evidence at a hearing.
To prove the allegations, the GMC must gather evidence to support its case. This will be made up of a number of documents including reports, correspondence, and written witness statements.
You may be asked to speak to a GMC solicitor on different aspects of the case. Arrangements will be made for you to meet with the solicitor, who will allow you to ask any questions about the process.
Sometimes witnesses may have difficulty with their employer allowing them to attend the hearing or they may be reluctant to attend. Because witnesses play a key role in our hearings, which are designed to protect patients, a witness can be served with a formal summons. The summons is a legal requirement for a witness to appear at a hearing, and, if a summons is ignored, the witness can be prosecuted for contempt.
There is an interactive virtual tour of the hearing centre on the MPTS website. This gives witnesses an idea of what to expect when they arrive to give evidence.
The virtual tour allows you to explore 360˚ views of the reception, hearing rooms and doctor and witness waiting rooms at the Manchester hearing centre.
The hearing date
We will contact you to discuss a hearing date and your availability to appear as a witness. Where possible, we will try to ensure that the hearing date coincides with a time when you are available. However, this is not always possible as there are a number of other factors that will affect the date, as well as many other people to accommodate.
Please let your GMC contact know as soon as possible about any specific travel or hotel accommodation requirements that you may have. For example, if you are a wheelchair user or if you have a visual impairment.
We will let you know as soon as a date has been confirmed, and will make arrangements for any overnight hotel accommodation and book travel tickets.
Other help available
There may be factors that might make giving evidence particularly difficult for some witnesses. If you have a disability, illness or a condition, such as a depression or anxiety, a learning difficulty, a physical disability, or you experience difficulty in social situations, then this may affect how you give evidence before a panel. The way in which you present evidence may also be affected in situations where the allegations are of a sexual nature and you are the alleged victim or you feel intimidated due to your age, gender, race, cultural background or sexuality.
If you have any concerns about giving evidence, please raise this at an early stage with your GMC contact. They will discuss your circumstances with you and let you know whether adjustments can be made to assist you or if any special measures (eg screens or video-link) can be put in place to help you give evidence.
Talking to someone about being a witness
Being a witness can be a stressful experience for some people. If you feel that you would like support, you might wish to speak to someone who is independent of the GMC and the MPTS.
Our witness service provides dedicated support for people who have made a complaint to the GMC or who may be asked to give evidence to a hearing.
It is a confidential service run by volunteers from the charity Victim Support.
You can access support from the service at any time before, during or after attending a hearing.
The witness service can provide:
- telephone support
- home visits or face to face support in your local community
- an opportunity to talk to someone confidentially about how you are feeling
- help to understand what happens during an investigation into a complaint about a doctor
- an opportunity to visit the hearing centre before the day you are due to give evidence
- an independent supporter who can accompany you on the day and be in the room while you give evidence to a hearing
- practical assistance to make sure the GMC and the MPTS is aware of any arrangements that are needed to enable you to attend the hearing and help completing your expenses claim form
- sign-posting to other organisations that can provide further support.
This service is free, confidential and independent.
Please remember that while volunteers are able to provide emotional support and practical help, they are not qualified to provide professional counselling or legal advice. They are also not allowed to discuss the evidence.
If you would like to use this service you can ask your solicitor to make a referral. Alternatively, you can contact the witness service manager yourself by calling 0161 954 1797 or emailing email@example.com.
Meeting the doctor you are giving evidence against
If you are particularly concerned about meeting the doctor or anyone else involved in the case when you come to the hearing centre, it may be possible for someone to meet you and escort you to a witness waiting area or another room away from other witnesses. Unfortunately, it is not possible to guarantee that you will not meet other people involved in the case.
Things to remember
Make sure you have all the information you need before the day of the hearing.
- Check that you know the location of the hearing centre – there is a map on the MPTS website.
- Write down any questions you may have about being a witness and, if you are unable to find the answers on our website, ask your GMC contact.
- Check the journey time and train or flight departure times to make sure you won’t be late for the hearing.
- Bring your witness statement to read through, as well as a book or some other activity to help keep you occupied while you wait to give evidence.
- If you are giving evidence by video or telephone, make sure you have the details you need for this and that we are able to contact you before the time that has been agreed for you to give evidence.