Regulating doctors, ensuring good medical practice


GMC creates tools to support doctors attending hearings

Press Release

09 Feb 2010

A new initiative will provide more support for doctors attending a General Medical Council (GMC) fitness to practise hearing.

We hope that this initiative will offer some peace of mind to all those who are called to give evidence at our hearings, and that the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the process and the look and feel of a hearing will help to demystify it.

Paul Philip, Director of Standards and Fitness to Practise, General Medical Council

An online hearing room will allow doctors, patients, and witnesses to take a virtual step inside a hearing, and users can tour the room and see who is attending, and why. 

The site includes virtual versions of all those who might attend a hearing, such as lay and medical members of the panel, and a doctor’s representative. All 12 of these characters can be clicked on for an explanation of who they are and what role they play in a hearing.  The site also shows the reception area and waiting rooms for doctors and witnesses so that anyone attending a hearing can arrive feeling more comfortable with their surroundings.

In addition, the GMC has also launched the Information for doctors initiative.  This involves the provision of information to doctors whose cases are due to be considered by a Fitness to Practise Panel on the GMC website as well as a booklet about what to expect at hearings.

The GMC is also launching a project to support vulnerable witnesses. This project allows witnesses to come into the GMC’s buildings in advance of the hearing and be shown round. They can also ask to be joined by an independent ‘friend,’ assigned on the day of the hearing, to provide support.
The project builds on an existing section for witnesses on the GMC website with photos of the building and information about the processes which they can expect.

Paul Philip, the GMC’s Director of Standards and Fitness to Practise, said,

“The vast majority of doctors do a good job in often difficult circumstances.  We know this because of the 218,000 doctors practising in the UK, we receive around 5,000 complaints per year, and around 200 come before a public hearing.

“But attending and giving evidence in a hearing can be a daunting process for members of the public and doctors alike.  We hope that this initiative will offer some peace of mind to all those who are called to give evidence at our hearings, and that the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the process and the look and feel of a hearing will help to demystify it.

“As a regulator, our policy making processes and procedures are open and transparent.  We take our responsibility to deal firmly and fairly with doctors whose fitness to practise is in doubt seriously, but we don’t lose sight of those whose core duty it is ours to protect – that is, patients and the public.” 

Dr Nick Clements, Head of Medical Services (Leeds), Medical Protection Society said: “We should welcome this approach - it's very useful material to assist people unfamiliar with the GMC process - whether they are a witness, or a doctor facing charges.  It helps create a feeling of familiarity with the process that should help to reduce the stress associated with attending a hearing.”

The virtual hearing room can be viewed at:
http://www.gmc-uk.org/static/media/virtualhearingroom/main.html

To find out more about the Information for doctors initiative visit:
http://www.gmc-uk.org/concerns/hearings_and_decisions/hearing_information_for_doctors.asp

To find out more about the vulnerable witnesses project visit: 
http://www.gmc-uk.org/concerns/witnesses.asp

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

For further information please contact the Media Relations Office on 020 7189 5454, out of hours 020 7189 5444, email press@gmc-uk.org, website www.gmc-uk.org.

The General Medical Council registers and licenses doctors to practise medicine in the UK. Our purpose is summed up in the phrase: Regulating doctors, Ensuring Good Medical Practice.

The law gives us four main functions:

• keeping up-to-date registers of qualified doctors
• fostering good medical practice
• promoting high standards of medical education
• dealing firmly and fairly with doctors whose fitness to practise is in doubt

Merger of PMETB with GMC

From 1 April 2010, (subject to legislation) the functions of the Post Graduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) will be transferred to the GMC, creating a simpler and clearer framework for the regulation of medical education and training.

In February 2008, the Secretary of State announced that PMETB would be merged with the GMC, following a recommendation from Sir John Tooke’s Independent Inquiry into Modernising Medical Careers. Following the merger, all stages of medical education and training will fall under the GMC’s remit. For more information please visit www.gmc-uk.org or www.pmetb.org.uk

Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA)

From April 2011, the adjudication of fitness to practise cases involving doctors will transfer from the GMC to a new body called the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA). OHPA is being established under the Health and Social Care Act 2008. It is being created to ensure clear separation between the investigation of fitness to practise cases and the process of determining whether a professional’s fitness to practise is impaired.

To begin with, the new body will be responsible for making decisions on fitness to practise cases brought forward by the GMC and, in time, the General Optical Council. Over time, other regulators of healthcare professionals may transfer their adjudication functions to OHPA. For more information about OHPA, please visit www.ohpa.org.uk

The GMC will remain the regulator for doctors, continuing to set the standards for professional practice and receiving and investigating allegations about their fitness to practise.