Should I attend my GMC/MPTS Hearing? [Information for Doctors in 2021]

Shall I attend my GMC Hearing?

Will it harm my chances as a doctor if I do not attend my GMC / MPTS hearing?

A number of doctors each year choose not to attend their GMC / MPTS hearing. Such doctors risk being struck off the GMC register of registered medical practitioners. Indeed, doctors will contact us from time to time, who have been erased (or suspended, or hand stringent conditions imposed), and they ask us whether they can appeal. While any doctor has a right to lodge an appeal from an erasure, suspension or conditions order, there are no guarantees of success. An appeal is not a fresh (or de novo) hearing. Rather an appeal hearing examines the way that the GMC/MPTS hearing was conducted, and how the parties engaged or not. The non-engagement of a doctor can be fatal on appeal. Appeal courts will be slow to interfere with a decision that is objectionable to a doctor but which was conducted fairly, without any significant failing of process or procedure. The intentional absence of a doctor in itself is usually not a strong appeal ground, in the majority of cases. Nevertheless, where a doctor is absent the GMC has an obligation (by way of its duty of candour) to ensure that the doctor’s documents are before the tribunal. A failure to do this might mean that there was not a fair trial, such that the MPTS decision can be set aside.

In Burrows v General Pharmaceutical Council [2016] EWHC 1050 (Admin) Kerr J, the appeal judge, stated that a registrant who faces (in this particular case) a dishonesty allegation, and who does not attend certain stages of a hearing (such as the sanction stage) “amounts virtually to courting removal” from the register. This is because the panel or tribunal tasked with considering the case is unable to explore the insight of the registrant. In the Burrows case the appeal court judge stated that, “The main difficulty with [the registrant’s] arguments is that [they] did not attend to answer questions as to her state of mind, which was a core consideration relating to the determination of dishonesty. Further, the absence of the registrant would deprive the panel or tribunal of discovering a “benign” interpretation for the alleged conduct. The absence of the registrant would also limit the opportunities for the panel or tribunal to impose a lenient sanction. The case demonstrates the importance of a registrant attending a regulatory hearing.

In Kimmance v General Medical Council [2016] EWHC 1808 (Admin), another appeal case (with a different set of circumstances) heard by Kerr J, he said that “non-attendance of the hearing can come close to professional suicide”.

An appeal can be costly and we can advise on merits and prospects and the funding of appeals. See our Appeals Information for Doctors page. However, we recommend that doctors do participate in their hearings, so as to maximise their prospects of success. At the very least, a doctor should be represented if, on balance, they choose not to attend, but that would not be as efficacious as personally attending with their representative.

If you would like to discuss your GMC case or another matter related to professional practice, give us a call without obligation on 0800 10 88 739