A coalition of 13 leading healthcare organisations have urged the Government to deliver on its 2018 commitment to strip the General Medical Council (GMC) of its power to appeal decisions made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

In 2018 the Government accepted in full the recommendations of the Williams review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare, following the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba - this included the central recommendation that the GMC should have its right to appeal fitness to practise decisions removed.

The relevant legislative changes have however not been made to the Medical Act, so the GMC continue to appeal decisions. According to data obtained through an FOI request, since the start of 2018 it has challenged at least 14 MPTS decisions.

The Williams review concluded that removing the GMC’s right of appeal against MPTS decisions would help to address the mistrust of the GMC amongst doctors and contribute to cultivating a culture of openness that is central to delivering improved patient safety. It also said that public protection would still be maintained, with the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) retaining its near identical right of appeal to MPTS decisions.

The letter to the Health Secretary calling for section 40A of the Medical Act 1983 to be finally removed as part of the forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill,  was signed by Medical Protection Society, The Doctors’ Association UK, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Medical Women’s Federation, Association of Anaesthetists,  British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and Medical Defence Shield.

Professor Dame Jane Dacre, President at the Medical Protection Society who coordinated the letter, commented:

“The strength of feeling on this issue from right across the healthcare community is clear to see. The GMC’s power to appeal decisions made by the MPTS has led to fear across the medical profession and a lack of confidence in the GMC. It is also unnecessary as the PSA has the authority to appeal decisions. The GMC is the only UK health regulator that has such a right of appeal.

“The Government agreed that the GMC should be stripped of the power in June 2018, following the Professor Sir Norman Williams review into Gross Negligence Manslaughter in healthcare. However, until the relevant legislative changes are made to the Medical Act, the GMC can and do continue to challenge decisions.

“The Government’s recommitment to removing the GMC’s right to appeal within the recent consultation on broader professional regulation reforms is welcome. It is however almost three years since it committed to making this change, and it should not be held up while a wide range of other complex proposals go through a round of further consultation.

“Implementing this change as part of the forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill would give the profession confidence that their concerns and the recommendations of the Williams review are now being acted on.

“There has never been a more important time to address this shortcoming.  Covid-19 has sparked discussion about the extent to which individuals should be held to account when working in pressurised and extreme circumstances, and now more than ever, the regulator needs to be able to operate in a way that instils confidence amongst patients and doctors.”