GMC Health Cases – Does DDS provide legal assistance?
Doctors Defence Service assists doctors in all General Medical Council (GMC) health-related cases, whether it is relevant to mitigation within a GMC FTP misconduct hearing, or, it is related to ill-health or infirmity such that the GMC has alleged it is compromising a doctor’s ability to properly and safely function, in their capacity as a doctor (registered medical practitioner).
The GMC may bring health-related allegations against a doctor which claim that a doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired due to physical or mental ill-health. On occasions the doctor may have full insight and understanding about their illness. In other instances a doctor may have no insight at all. Some doctors, however, are quite correct that they are not suffering from a disorder (physical or psychological) that is affecting their ability to work as a doctor, when all of the evidence becomes available and a strong argument can be put forward on a doctors behalf in such situations.
At Doctors Defence Service (DDS), our lawyers will work with a doctor to evidence their current health status. Occasionally, health-related expert reports may be required and the GMC will, in many health cases, obtain expert reports. Doctors Defence Service lawyers will advise doctors on the matters an expert will need to look at and comment on, which in many cases go beyond a physiological assessment.
Health-related evidence is usually heard in private. Only where a doctor wishes for the health-related matters to be heard in public are they likely to be heard in a public forum. Allegations may be related to alcohol misuse, drug dependency, untreated or unstable mental health issues, physical ill-health such that a doctor is not able to carry out their duties.
Insight is often the main issue in a case. For example, on occasion doctors who are objectively showing symptoms of mental ill-health unfortunately lack insight and carry on as usual. By way of illustration, a doctor may be unaware that they have developed a mental health condition, which is causing problems with work colleagues with whom they should be able to work collaboratively but due to ill-health the doctor has become suspicious and difficult to work with, compromising the delivery of service to patients.
Doctors Defence Service lawyers will help doctors to understand the ill-health allegations that have been made against them and advise them on steps to take to overcome the problems that they are facing, which on occasions may also include recommendations to take a period of time off work to recover from their illness or infirmity.
Some of DDS’s lawyers are also clinically qualified (being formerly or currently registered) and their knowledge of health matters is often found to be of significant help to doctors.
Doctors who are unwell (and who the GMC’s case examiners consider may lack insight) are called in many instances to appear before an Interim Orders Tribunal (IOT). DDS lawyers have represented many doctors at IOT hearings and in many cases no order has been made. DDS lawyers will need to spend time in advance of such a hearing with the doctor to be able to formulate a response to the GMC’s concerns. Documentary evidence will generally be required in support of oral argument and Doctors Defence Service will advise on the law and on the evidence needed, and assist the doctor in obtaining appropriate medical evidence.
If you would like to discuss a health-related fitness to practise issue with one of our lawyers, in strict confidence and without commitment, call us on: 0800 10 88 739