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Proposed changes to fitness to practise regulation and the role of the PSA

All medical professionals will deal with their professional regulator in an administrative sense, and some will unfortunately have more involved interactions in their career. Indeed an unexpected letter from the GMC, is one of the least welcome communications that might land in a doctor’s inbox.

However many medical professionals are not aware that the medical regulators (GMC, GDC, GPhC etc) are themselves regulated by a body called the Professional Standards Authority, or PSA.

New process for handling fitness to practise matters

The PSA sets ‘standards of good regulations’ and reviews regulator performance, and is currently consulting on an entirely new process for handling fitness to practise matters across the healthcare profession. Under the proposed new system, more cases are expected to be dealt with on paper through a process called an ‘accepted outcome’ rather than going to a formal hearing.

Most readers will likely welcome the idea of the ‘accepted outcome’ paper process, as formal hearings are extremely stressful for the medical professional involved to say nothing of the time it can take to hear the case. If you have strong feelings about this proposed new approach you can add your comments to the consultation via the PSA website until 15 April.

Role of the PSA

One of the functions of the PSA is to review the decisions of a regulators fitness to practise panel. The PSA can appeal decisions of those panels if they consider that a decision has been incorrect, for example due to procedural irregularities or because the decision does not adequately protect the public. The PSA does this by lodging an appeal in the High Court against the professional regulator such as the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, rather than against the registered doctor. The doctor can then be made a party to such proceedings, and can make representations at the appeal if they wish.

This can sometimes put doctors in the unusual position of wanting to argue that the decision of the MPTS was correct! For example, one of our colleagues recently acted for a medical professional who was involved in a serious drink driving accident. At final hearing, the Panel determined a warning was sufficient, but the PSA argued that outcome was essentially too lenient and appealed. In this way, strange as it may sound, it is sometimes possible to achieve too good a result at a final hearing.

At DR Solicitors we have experience of dealing with PSA appeals throughout the country. If you are unlucky enough to be involved in one you should certainly seek experienced legal advice urgently. For more information about this or any other legal or regulatory matters, please contact us or call 01483 511555 for a free, initial discussion about your position.