The results of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the General Medical Council (GMC) by The Medical Protection Society (MPS) demonstrate how important it is for doctors to have legal support when faced with a GMC investigation and a subsequent hearing.
More than three quarters (78%) of doctors erased from the register following a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing between March 2015 and March 2018 did not have any legal representation. On the other hand, eight in 10 doctors (80%) who did not receive a sanction and were able to continue to practise had legal representation.
The situation is even more stark for doctors facing an Interim Order Tribunal (IOT), nearly nine in 10 (88%) doctors who had legal representation had no order imposed, while over three-quarters (76%) of doctors suspended did not have legal representation.
GPs without legal representation fair particularly badly. The vast majority of GPs (84%) who were erased from the register as a result of a Medical Tribunal hearing had no legal representation, whereas nearly all GPs (91%) who did not receive a sanction had legal representation. Nine in 10 (93%) registered GPs who had legal representation had no order made against them after an IOT.
This data supports the need for GPs to continue being a member of a medical defence organisation, after the new state-backed indemnity scheme is introduced, that will safeguard their interests before the regulator.
Most of the doctors, who appear before an MPTS hearing with legal representation, are provided this support as part of their membership of a medical defence organisation. For other doctors who would have to personally pay for this legal support, the cost can be prohibitively expensive. It is not unusual for the cost of defending a doctor to exceed £80,000 when a GMC investigation leads to an MPTS hearing.
Rob Hendry, medical director at MPS, said: “MPS understands how traumatic being under investigation by the GMC can be for a doctor. Fitness to practise proceedings can have career ending implications for the doctor, but many have told us, even when acquitted – that the investigation and adjudication process itself was the real punishment. MPS provides high quality support to its members from the moment a complaint is received by the GMC, to its conclusion at the MPTS.
“These figures from the GMC are a powerful reminder of how important it will be for GPs to continue membership of a medical defence organisation. The new state-backed indemnity scheme will not provide assistance with GMC inquiries or complaints, inquests and disciplinary proceedings.
“Members can have peace of mind that should they ever need us - MPS will be there with its expertise to offer support to GP members, just as we have for hospital doctors since NHS indemnity was introduced for them in 1990.”