Why does my hearing have a Legally Qualified Chair?

Background

In 2015 the General Medical Council consulted on changes to reform the fitness to practise and adjudication processes this, in addition to including establishing the MPTS on a statutory footing, included the discretion to introduce Legally Qualified Chairs (LQC). The power came into effect at the end of 2015 and we commenced a pilot to use LQCs at the start of 2016, initially limiting use to less complex hearings such as interim order tribunal hearings before piloting the use of them in medical practitioner tribunal hearings.

Throughout the pilot we sought and received feedback on the use of LQCs and have taken the feedback into account as we continued to extend the use of LQCs. At the end of 2016, we decided that the pilot was operating successfully and that increasing the use of LQCs would further benefit our hearings in terms of efficiency, particularly to work to reduce the length of hearings. In Summer 2017 we appointed 72 Legally Qualified Chairs.

When will the MPTS use Legally Qualified Chairs?

Further to reviewing all feedback obtained during the pilot we have produced criteria to clarify when a hearing will be chaired by a Legally Qualified Chair.

What does this mean for MPTS hearings?

The introduction of Legally Qualified Chairs is a change where the Chair is both a decision maker, alongside the other two tribunal members, and the person ensuring that the tribunal is operating in accordance with the legal process. This is in contrast to hearings where the role of the chair is separate to the role of the Legal Assessor.

The process at the hearing does not differ and any relevant legal points will be addressed during the hearing and/or in the determination by either the Legally Qualified Chair or the Legal Assessor.

We recognise that where doctors are self-represented they may wish to clarify the process of the hearing. The Legally Qualified Chair is responsible for ensuring that the parties to proceedings understand each stage of the process, however we have also established Doctor Contact Service which is a service where members of MPTS staff are able to offer non-legal support outside of the hearing room where this is requested.

Any potentially exceptional circumstances must be identified to the Case Manager at the earliest opportunity as part of the Case Management process before a hearing. Where potentially exceptional circumstances are identified, both the GMC and the self-represented doctor will be given an opportunity to provide their comments, either through discussion at a case management telephone conference or in writing to assist the Case Manager to consider how to apply the criteria.

The introduction of Legally Qualified Chairs is one of a number of measures being introduced to improve the effectiveness of proceedings and we will continue to develop our approach to the case management of proceedings to ensure hearings are concluded as quickly as possible, reducing unnecessary stress for both doctors and witnesses.