High Court judge made new chair of doctors’ tribunal service

Press Release

31 August 2016

‘In Dame Caroline we know that we have found someone who has the experience of the law and the commitment to reform and fairness to make sure the tribunal service goes from strength to further strength.’

Prof Terence Stephenson, Chair of the GMC

Dame Caroline Swift has been appointed as the new Chair of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) – the body that makes independent decisions about a doctor’s fitness to practise medicine in the UK.

Dame Caroline was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1993 and a High Court judge in 2005 until her retirement in 2015. She will take up her post from 1 January 2017, succeeding His Honour David Pearl.

The MPTS, based in Manchester, hears cases brought against doctors by the General Medical Council (GMC) and has the power to restrict or remove a doctor’s registration if patients are at risk.

Professor Terence Stephenson, Chair of the General Medical Council, said:

‘The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service plays a vital role in protecting patients and maintaining public confidence in the UK’s medical profession.

‘His Honour David Pearl has been an outstanding Chair of the MPTS, overseeing its establishment as a separate body within the GMC and driving through a series of reforms that have delivered much greater confidence in the way doctors’ hearings are managed.

‘In Dame Caroline we know that we have found someone who has the experience of the law and the commitment to reform and fairness to make sure the tribunal service goes from strength to further strength.’

Dame Caroline Swift said:

‘I look forward very much to leading the Service. My aim will be to continue the work which has been done over the past four years in order to deliver an efficient and effective decision making process which commands the trust and respect of all those who have an interest in it.’

In her role, Dame Caroline will chair the statutory MPTS Committee, which is responsible for appointing medical and lay tribunal members, setting guidance and quality assuring decisions.

The MPTS was set up in 2012 in the biggest shake-up of fitness to practise hearings since the GMC was first established in 1858. The MPTS is fully independent in its decision making and operationally separate from the rest of the GMC, including its investigatory arm. It is accountable to GMC Council and reports annually to Parliament.

Notes to editors

Selection Process

We ran a national recruitment campaign advertising the role of Chair in the Sunday Times in May.

The selection panel for the MPTS Chair appointment comprised: Professor Terence Stephenson, Chair of GMC Council, Lady Eames, GMC lay Council member and two external panellists - The Right Hon Sir Stephen Silber and Dr Chitra Bharucha.

About Dame Caroline Swift

Dame Caroline Swift was educated at Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School and gained a BA Hons degree in law at the University of Durham. She was called to the Bar in 1977 and thereafter practised as a barrister on the Northern Circuit, with Chambers in Manchester.

She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1993, specialising in complex medico-legal cases. Between 2001 and 2005, she was Leading Counsel to the Shipman Inquiry. She was appointed an Assistant Recorder in 1992 and a Recorder in 1995. In 2000, she was appointed a Deputy Judge of the High Court. In 1997, she became a Bencher of Inner Temple.

In 2005, Dame Caroline was appointed as a Judge of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division. She was invested as a Dame of the British Empire upon her appointment and subsequently presided over a wide variety of cases in the civil, criminal and administrative Courts and in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division.

From 2006 until her retirement in 2015, she was the Judge in charge of the British Coal Respiratory Disease Litigation, a group action involving over half a million claims. Between 2012 and 2014, she was the Judicial College Director of Civil Training, with responsibility for the training in civil work of Judges at all levels in England and Wales.

About the MPTS

The MPTS protect patients by making independent decisions about a doctor’s fitness to practise, measured against professional standards set by the General Medical Council.

MPTS tribunals have powers to impose sanctions against the doctor’s registration where necessary, to protect the public.

The MPTS is accountable to the GMC Council for the delivery of its objectives, and is required by law to make an annual report to the UK Parliament on its activities. The MPTS provides a hearings service that is fully independent in its decision making and separate from the investigatory role of the GMC.

Each year, the MPTS runs over 200 medical practitioners tribunal hearings, and over 1800 interim orders tribunal hearings.

The MPTS employs around 90 staff and has a pool of over 260 medical and lay tribunal members.

The MPTS Media Relations Office can be contacted on 0161 250 6868, email pressoffice@mpts-uk.org.

To find out more please visit our website www.mpts-uk.org.

About the GMC

The General Medical Council (GMC) is an independent organisation that helps to protect patients and improve medical education and practice across the UK.

• We decide which doctors are qualified to work here and we oversee UK medical education and training.
• We set the standards that doctors need to follow, and make sure that they continue to meet these standards throughout their careers.
• We take action when we believe a doctor may be putting the safety of patients, or the public’s confidence in doctors, at risk.

We are not here to protect doctors – their interests are protected by others. Our job is to protect the public.

We are independent of government and the medical profession and accountable to Parliament. Our powers are given to us by Parliament through the Medical Act 1983.

We are a registered charity (number 1089278 with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, and number SC037750 with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), we have to show that our aims are for public benefit.

The GMC Media Relations Office can be contacted on 020 7189 5454, email press@gmc-uk.org.

To find out more please visit our website www.gmc-uk.org.

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