The General Medical Council conducts investigations when it has concerns about doctor’s ability to practise safely or where it fears the doctor’s alleged actions threaten public confidence in the medical profession.
Such allegations can arise in the context of a doctor’s professional life, but also in his or her private life if the regulator deems them to be relevant to their medical practice.
A GMC fitness to practice investigation can be an extremely stressful and daunting process for the doctor concerned. Hickman & Rose specialise in providing expert legal representation in relation to GMC investigations which is supportive, objective but also robust.
GMC investigations often start with a complaint from a patient or relative. But the regulator also acts on reports from employers, the police, another regulator. It can sometimes be prompted to act due to media coverage of a particular individual or issue.
The GMC examines if a doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired. This can encompass a wide range of issues including:
Whenever the GMC starts an investigation, the subject doctor will be notified of this, and given some information about the case. Any doctor who receives such a notification is advised to quickly seek specialist legal advice as a well-drafted representation to the GMC at this early stage can result in the swift termination of an investigation, thus saving the anxiety of awaiting the GMC’s findings.
At this early stage the GMC can try to suspend or restrict a doctor from practising by referring them to the Interim Orders Panel of the Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service (MPTS). Any doctor who wants to prevent this from happening is advised to respond rapidly, and to quickly develop their legal strategy. This may involve preparing to fight the case at a tribunal or negotiating voluntary undertakings which satisfy the GMC and avoid the risk, expense and publicity of a hearing.
At the end of its investigation the GMC will set out its findings and evidence in a report and invite the doctor to reply. Getting the response right is essential and can prove to be the difference between an investigation ending with no action taken, undertakings agreed, a warning or referral to the Tribunal.
Hickman & Rose has an enviable track record of successfully acting for doctors under investigation in the most difficult circumstances. Many of our clients have come to us after having received earlier advice from their professional service organisation. Sometimes they have not previously received the level of service they needed or on other occasions they have informed that they are not covered for free legal advice.
Our work frequently involves providing professional disciplinary advice on an investigation which arises from criminal allegations and we can offer representation on both sets of issues. By dealing with both investigations side-by-side, we give clients the best prospects of resolving all of the issues which affect them personally and professionally. As a result, we have achieved good results for doctors under investigation including:
The department is led by partner Andrew Katzen, who has spent many years’ acting for doctors and clients in all aspects of professional discipline. He is a committee member of the Association of Regulatory and Disciplinary Lawyers (ARDL). Regulatory law and professional discipline specialist Claire Wallace is a partner in the department.