How the hearing works
The hearing starts with an introduction to open the case, followed by up to three stages, depending on the outcome of each stage. The stages are to decide if the facts of allegation against the doctor are proved, if the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired and, if so, what sanction should be imposed.
Before the tribunal makes a decision on a matter – at the end of each stage and midway through stage three – it will first retire in camera. This means that the tribunal’s discussion will take place without the presence of the parties and their representatives, witnesses, the public or the press.
The tribunal will then produce a written explanation of its decision (a determination). This will then be read out by the chair or handed down and made available to all parties.
Preliminary legal arguments
Prior to the formal opening of the hearing, preliminary legal arguments may be raised.
Preliminary arguments could include, but are not limited to, the failure of parties to comply with the Rules or with case manager directions. The possible consequences of a failure to comply are that the tribunal may:
- draw adverse inferences;
- refuse to admit evidence; and/ or
- award costs.
Other preliminary legal arguments may relate to a party seeking an adjournment or to request that a witness attends the hearing in person to give evidence.
Before deciding how to proceed, the tribunal will usually hear submissions from both parties. The legally qualified chair or the legal assessor will then give advice to the tribunal in public. The tribunal will then retire in camera to reach its decision before issuing its determination, which will usually be read out or handed down in public and made available to both parties.
Starting the hearing
If you are present, the chair will ask you to confirm your name and GMC reference number.
The hearing can take place without you or your representative, in which case the chair will ask the GMC’s representative to confirm your name and GMC reference number. This may occur only when the tribunal is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to give you notice of the hearing, and has taken into account all the factors relevant to your case. Otherwise, the hearing could be adjourned to a later date.
After your details have been confirmed, the chair will ask the GMC’s representative whether they wish to change any details about the allegation.
Admitting to the facts
If you come to the hearing, the tribunal will ask you if you wish to admit any of the alleged facts. If you do, the chair will formally announce that these facts are admitted and found proved. If you are not present or represented, you can admit the facts in writing and submit the document before the hearing.
If all the facts are admitted and found proved, the tribunal will then move on to consider whether, on the basis of the facts found proved, your fitness to practise is impaired (stage two).
If you dispute the facts
Where facts remain in dispute, the case will move to stage one. The chair will invite the GMC’s representative to open the GMC’s case and present evidence in support of its case.
Order of presenting the evidence
In stage one of the hearing, evidence will be presented in the order shown in the flowchart below. Stages two and three will follow a similar process if further evidence is presented.
The GMCs case
The GMC, which makes the allegation, presents its evidence first. This will include calling witnesses and asking them questions. You or your representative have the right to ask each witness questions (cross-examine).
The doctors case
If you are representing yourself at the hearing and the allegation is of a sexual nature, you are not allowed to question any of the alleged victims without their written consent. We will appoint and pay for a barrister to cross-examine the witnesses on your behalf. But we will not pay for a barrister for any other part of the hearing.
You may give evidence, as opposed to simply making a statement on the evidence given by others. If you give evidence, the GMC’s representative and the tribunal can ask you questions about it. You will not be questioned by the GMC’s representative or the tribunal if you choose only to make an oral statement. However, if you choose to give evidence as a witness under oath/affirmation, and have therefore been available to answer questions, this may carry more weight than a statement alone.
If you decide to give evidence, an MPTS staff member will show you to the witness desk and ask you to either take a religious oath on a holy book of your choosing or to make an affirmation that your evidence is true.
You should provide a written statement of your evidence, unless you have requested permission to give evidence orally and this request has been approved. You should speak clearly and slowly into the microphone on the witness desk so that everyone can hear your evidence. Once you have finished, the GMC’s representative and the tribunal may ask you questions.
While you are giving your evidence, you may refer to or be shown documents. Take your time to read each document carefully.