Medical negligence expert welcomes new tribunal service

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Medical negligence expert welcomes new tribunal service

11th June 2012

A medical negligence specialist has welcomed the establishment of a new independent tribunal service which will manage all fitness-to-practice panel hearings for the UK medical profession from today.

Jacqui Hayat, head of the London medical negligence department at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: “The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) - which will run all fitness-to-practice cases for General Medical Council (GMC) registered doctors - will hopefully do more to strengthen public and professional confidence in doctor’s hearings and ensure the full separation between the investigatory role of the GMC and the adjudicatory role of the MPTS.

“The new MPTS process will benefit victims of medical negligence as allegations against doctors deemed to present a risk to patients will be assessed with much greater urgency than in the past,” added Jacqui, a partner at the firm. “The MPTS aims to resolve cases while evidence is fresh and people’s memories regarding alleged negligence or misconduct remain clear. This represents a huge step away from the laborious process used previously which often saw doctors under investigation being suspended for years while awaiting hearings and decisions.“

The establishment of the MPTS is an integral part of the GMC’s plans to modernise and reform its adjudication process following the government’s decision to abolish the Office for Healthcare Professional Adjudicator (OHPA). The MPTS was set up as part of government-led reforms following consultation with ministers in 2010, which recommended greater separation between the GMC's investigative function and the adjudication of cases

"The MPTS is the result of a commitment made last year by the GMC to reform its fitness-to-practice procedures and establish a more modern and efficient adjudication process,” said Jacqui. “It is vital that public perception of autonomy regarding fitness-to-practice hearings is clear so that people are confident of the panel’s impartiality and that any resulting decisions they make following GMC investigations are both fair and transparent.”

Although the GMC will continue to handle and investigate complaints made against doctors and present their cases to fitness-to-practice hearings, the MPTS will - in the most serious of cases - have the power to remove or suspend doctors from the medical register or place restrictions on their practise, ensuring that those found to have failed in their duty will be prevented from treating others.

“Amongst a host of measures being introduced and one that is particularly encouraging to victims of medical negligence is that panels will also hold the power to act early by considering cases before a full fitness-to-practice hearing takes place,” said Jacqui. “This could lead to immediate restrictions being enforced such as the suspension of practises while investigations are underway.”

The MPTS will be made up of panels and be operationally separate from the rest of the GMC. The panels will be led by a judicial figure - who is accountable to Parliament - and will assume responsibility for the day-to-day management of adjudication from now on.

“This is a greatly improved service and represents the biggest shakeup of fitness-to-practice hearings in more than 150 years,” said Jacqui. “It is both correct and proper that anyone who encounters the MPTS processes is assured of the panels’ independence and that all decisions regarding action needed to protect patients is completely impartial. It is equally crucial patients are reassured that any concerns they may have regarding a doctors fitness to practice are handled promptly and robustly.

“The quality of the outcome of adjudication depends very much on the quality of the panellists responsible for assessing evidence and making decisions,” added Jacqui. “As such, it is extremely important that great emphasis is placed on the way in which panellists are both trained and mentored so that the decisions they make are appropriate and most importantly, act to protect the health and well-being of patients.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to medical negligence.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claim questionnaire.

Read more: BBC