The Statutory Overarching Objective of the Medical Act 1983

Medical Act 1983 Overarching ObjectiveThe Overarching Objective in GMC MPTS FTP Processes

Tribunal decision-makers of the MPTS, and decision-makes of the GMC, must bear in mind the statutory overarching objective as set out in s1 Medical Act 1983 (“the 1983 Act”) to:

(a) protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of the public;

(b) to promote and maintain public confidence in the medical profession; and,

(c) to promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of that profession.

Where a decision fails to appropriately apply the overarching objective to a set of facts, the GMC or PSA will likely appeal the decision. Where a fitness to practise hearing, conducted by a Medical Practitioners Tribunal, failed to follow the GMC’s/MPTS’s Sanctions Guidance (which applies the overarching objective in given scenarios; including findings of sexually motivated conduct and dishonesty) the appeal courts will likely overturn the tribunal decision, in favour of the public rather than a doctor.

Case Law on the Overarching Objective

See by way of example The General Medical Council v Khetyar [2018] EWHC 813 (Admin) (19 March 2018) whereby the High Court held that a tribunal had failed to apply the sanctions guidance, and thereby failed to apply the statutory overarching objective. The sanction imposed by the tribunal was quashed and substituted with an erasure order.

At para 3 of the judgment, the judge set out the GMC’s appeal grounds:

3. The GMC’s contention on appeal is that the Tribunal’s decision that suspension was a sufficient sanction is seriously flawed and wrong by reference to any or all of three grounds of appeal. By a fourth and final ground of appeal, the GMC contends that, standing back, the sanction of suspension did not reflect adequately the nature and seriousness of the misconduct the Tribunal had found proved. It therefore asks the court to quash the decision and substitute a sanction of erasure, or alternatively to remit the matter to the MPTS for a fresh decision as to sanction.

And at para 60 the judge determined the disposal of the case:

It is a sadness to lose any otherwise good clinician from the profession, but it is a fundamental tenet of the sanctions regime, reflecting the statutory overarching objective, that the reputation of the profession as a whole is more important than the interests of any individual doctor. In my judgment, there is nothing in the case-specific circumstances of this appeal capable of justifying the Tribunal in departing from the very clear steer towards erasure it should have identified from the Sanctions Guidance. The proper sanction in this case was and is clear, having due regard to that Guidance, and that was and is erasure.

(March 2018)

If you are a doctor facing GMC, MPTS or appeal proceedings and you would like advice on the application of the overarching objective in a given set of circumstances, give Doctors Defence Service a call on 0800 10 88 739