Our dedicated team of top-rated GMC defence solicitors is unique here at Blackfords LLP. Not only do we specialise in acting for medical professionals before healthcare regulators [such as the General Medical Council or GMC, and the General Dental Council or GDC], we also specialise in acting for medical professionals facing employment-related criminal matters.
Because regulatory and criminal allegations can overlap, we are able to advise seamlessly and tactically on both matters within the optimal overall strategy that is best for each case.
As a niche regulatory and criminal solicitor firm, based in London but with a UK reach, our dedicated medical defence team has extensive experience representing Doctors and Dentists across the whole range of General and Dental Medical Council issues – from initial Notification to Fitness-To-Practise allegations to Appeals against decisions, as well as with applications seeking Restoration to the respective Council’s register.
“Best possible strategy”
The Blackfords team has great experience in the highly specialised area of medical disciplinary defence.
They carefully prepare and tactically develop their cases so that the best possible case strategy is implemented for their clients.
Carolina Bracken, professional disciplinary & regulatory specialist barrister
GMC Fitness To Practise Investigation Solicitors
Complaints against doctors are known as ‘referrals’ and the doctors we act for are known as ‘registrants’.
The importance of registrants retaining the services of a specialist fitness to practise lawyer team immediately can not be over-stated, and our seasoned expertise extends throughout all stages of the process:
- RULE 4 – the initial pre-consideration letter to the doctor followinga complaint
- RULE 7 – further notification advising there is a case to answer
- MPTS TRIBUNAL – adjudicates in a Fitness To Practise (FTP) hearing
- SANCTIONS – the imposition of any sanctions if the complaint is upheld
- APPEALS – challenge by way of an appeal to the High Court within 28days of the date when the notification of decision was served
- INTERIM ORDERS – additionally, Interim Orders can be made at any stage of a GMC investigation following the initial referral/complaint, andthese are handled by an Interim Order Tribunal
Some investigations are wide ranging and there may be overlapping issues with multiple complaints and/or allegations making them complex, whereas other investigations can be more straightforward. It is always critical however to choose your legal representation with care.As even the simplest of allegations if proven, can have a dramatic impact on the medical practitioner and their ability to continue to practise, it is of the utmost importance to select only the most experienced and tried & tested GMC medical defence lawyers.
If you are a doctor or dentist, or a medical or dental practitioner andare registered to practise in the UK, you can be investigated by the GMC or GDC (the regulatory bodies) following a referral.
Who might make a referral?
Referrals can be made by anyone but are usually made by NHS Trusts or private employers, the police, fellow medical practitioners or healthcare workers, patients or their family members and other organisations.
What type of allegations can be made?
Allegations can be of a criminal nature or can be regulatory.
Who investigates criminal allegations?
If it is an alleged criminal offence it will be investigated by the police. If the allegation is purely financial such as fraud or theft and it arises from working in the NHS it can be investigated by either the police or NHS counter fraud.
Who investigates regulatory allegations and what for?
The GMC conducts investigations of medical practitioners and medical students registered in the UK. The investigations are in relation to complaints/allegations of misconduct, incompetence or deficient practise, a criminal conviction or caution or ill health.
GMC have sent me a Rule 4 letter, what does this mean?
Essentially, the GMC have received a referral/complaint and this letter sets out the general nature of the allegation. As a registrant, you will need to decide how to respond to this initial letter, as sometimes it is better to not reply at this stage. It is important that you seek specialist advice so that you act in an informed way.
GMC have sent me a Rule 7 letter, what does this mean?
You will need to deal with this urgently. Preferably taking immediate expert advice from a specialist lawyer as there is a very strict 28 day time limit to respond. A Rule 7 letter means the GMC has concluded its investigation and this letter will detail the full allegation/s with supporting evidence.
My case has been referred to a case examiner, what happens now?
GMC case examiners decide whether there is a case to answer. If they decide that there is a case to answer they can issue a doctor with a warning, agree undertakings with a registrant or refer the case to a fitness to practise hearing known as Medical Practitioners Tribunal [MPTS].
My case has been referred to a fitness to practise hearing. What happens at this?
Cases referred to a Medical Practitioners Tribunal determine whether or not a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired. The hearing is conducted before a panel. The GMC presents its evidence and you as the registrant can challenge that evidence and present your own evidence in your defence.
If the Panel finds that fitness to practise is impaired it will consider and impose one of the sanctions that are available out of the following:
- No further action;
- Accept Undertakings which have been agreed between the Doctor and the GMC;
- Impose Conditions on Registration for up to 3 years;
- Suspend Registration for up to 12 months;
If the panel find that fitness to practise is not impaired it can take no further action or issue a warning against the registrant.
Can I appeal against a tribunal decision?
There is a right of appeal against a decision made by a Medical Practitioners Tribunal.Appeals are made to the High Court and it must be made to the court within 28 days from the date of the Panel decision.
High Court actions are very expensive and it is essential that you take expert advice before making an appeal. If the advice from an expert lawyer is positive, there may be financial support available from a professional or trade organisation.
How much will it cost me?
There may be different sources of funding available to you. This can be via your professional or trade association. If not, you may be able to claim under an insurance policy that you have. We can check the policy for you and advise accordingly. If the matter is to be privately funded, we offer competitive rates and can agree fixed fees for each stage of the proceedings to help you budget.
I have insurance cover but do not want the solicitor picked by my insurer, can I choose my own specialist lawyer?
Yes. You are entitled to instruct any solicitor/lawyer of your own choice.
Insurance companies will automatically refer you to one of their own “panel” lawyers. You do not have to accept the insurance panel solicitor/lawyer. We can advise you how to deal with this situation should it arise.