Doctors Defending Themselves Before the MPT / IOT / GMC
Doctors often ask Doctors Defence Service about the best way to advance their defence case at the GMC and before the Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS). The answer will depend on whether the case concerns registration or fitness to practise law, and which stage of the proceedings the case has reached within those specialist areas of law. See our GMC Representation page for more details about our legal services for doctors – and which also explain the GMC and MPTS regulatory procedures that doctors will need to be familiar with. Some doctors come to us to obtain advice on how to identify the evidence they will need so as to make representations themselves in writing or in person, some choosing to represent themselves. While other doctors require legal advice and full representation throughout a case. Whatever your personal requirements there is no obligation to instruct us for the whole of your case and we are likely to be able to advise or assist you to the degree that you require.
How do I represent myself at the GMC?
For those doctors who choose to represent themselves at the GMC/MPTS, our various web pages may provide some guidance as to what a doctor will need to present on paper or by way of oral submissions or evidence, as part of their case. However, we usually find that our lawyers can identify steps that a doctor might take, or evidence that they might obtain, which will increase the prospects of a win for the doctor, and which the doctor had not previously considered. It therefore makes good sense for a doctor to consult with a specialist lawyer, even if they then represent themselves. A number of doctors take this approach each year and many progess through their case, achieving a successful outcome.
When a doctor presents their case it is important to convey the information in a manner that can easily be understood by a decision-maker. Where written submissions are to be made, each document should have a title, and an index if there is an accompanying bundle of exhibits. Each paragraph of any statement or written submission should have its own paragraph number, and each page should have pagination, and a footer if possible, to assist those who are reading the documents to navigate through them. Exhibits should be clearly referred to in any statement, so that those reading the content can suitably cross-reference the documents and have an opportunity to quickly come up to speed on what the issues are.
Useful Links for Doctors Who Self-Represent in GMC Cases
Complexity of Cases
Some cases require a lot of detail to be included in defence statements, but where possible the written documentation should be kept as concise as possible. Oral argument and submissions should also be concise, and it is quite permissible to submit an argument in writing, in most instances. However, any panel should ideally be given the opportunity to question the doctor and any witnesses that may be controversial or add particular weight to the doctor’s case.
It is important to agree which witnesses for each side need to be called and which witness statements can be read, without the witnesses needing to attend. In some situations, it is possible to obtain a court order to require the attendance of a witness, or for a specific document to be produced. The GMC can be of assistance to doctors in obtaining disclosure, in some cases.
The Dangers of Representing Oneself
A Freedom of Information (FOI) disclosure by the GMC to the MPS in 2018 disclosed that doctors who represent themselves usually fare worse than those doctors who are represented. The MPS stated in an article that: “Over three-quarters (78%) of doctors erased from the register following a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing between March 2015 and March 2018 did not have any legal representation. On the other hand, 8 in 10 doctors (80%) who did not receive a sanction and were able to continue to practise had legal representation” – MPS Article November 2018 . We would therefore recommend that doctors be represented by experienced lawyers, whether or not they choose to use our services.
Doctors Defence Service provides bespoke legal advice to doctors who are seeking GMC registration or who are going through the GMC / MPTS fitness to practise process. Our lawyers can visit you at your home to advise you or see you at one of our offices across the UK. we represent doctors at all levels of training and those doctors who are fully qualified consultants. We also represent doctors in all specialities, in both clinical, managerial and academic practice.
Doctors Defence Service can be contacted on 0800 10 88 739 in strict confidence.