GMC/MPTS Indicative Sanctions Guidance
The GMC/MPTS’ joint new Indicative Sanctions Guidance came into effect as of 1 March 2016. The new guidance updates that which was published in December 2015 and implements further changes arising out of the 2014 public consultation.
The new guidance elaborates on factors relevant to the Tribunal’s decision to suspend a doctor and the appropriate length of such a suspension. The non-exhaustive factors identified are effectively split into three broad groups:
- the seriousness of the findings (including the extent of the departure from GMP and issues of dishonesty or predatory behaviour)
- the subsequent steps taken by the registrant (i.e. insight)
- the extent to which the doctor has complied with the GMC’s investigation and any restrictions or requirements.
The consultation responses demonstrated broad support for doctors to be given credit for time spent subject to an interim suspension when a final order for suspension was being imposed on purely public interest grounds. That is not reflected in the revised guidance, which simply advises Tribunals not to give “undue weight” to whether the registrant had been subject to an interim order.
The new guidance provides an updated list of factors Tribunals should consider when deciding the weight to be attributed to testimonial references, including the relevance to the specific findings in the case and the length and nature of the relationship between the testimonial writer and the doctor.
The guidance also requires Tribunals to be alert to any conflicts of interest a writer may have in providing the testimonial. This raises questions as to whether a personal friendship between writer and registrant could give rise to a conflict of interest and, consequently, the weight to be attached to a testimonial where the writer is both colleague and friend.
Fortunately, at least for now the GMC and MPTS have held off introducing verification screening to check the authenticity of testimonials. Concerns had been raised about the potential requirement to submit testimonial evidence in advance of the hearing.
Whilst the new Indicative Sanctions Guidance, and its August and December 2015 predecessors, have incorporated many of the consultation’s proposals, it appears that a number have fallen by the wayside. In particular, the guidance does not implement the, apparently well received, proposal that Tribunals be allowed to issue warnings in cases where they have found impairment of fitness to practise. Nor does it deliver the promised additional guidance to suspended doctors on how to keep their clinical skills up to date.
The Guidance document can be found here: www.mpts-uk.org/DC4198_Sanctions_Guidance_23008260.pdf
For more information and guidance about these issues, please contact:
T. 020 7227 7246
This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.