How a hearing works
There are up to three stages a hearing can go through. We explain what each stage is and what happens below.
Stage one: finding of facts
The tribunal listens to all the evidence and reads any relevant documents, then decides if any of the alleged facts are proved on the balance of probabilities. The doctor can also admit to alleged facts at this stage.
If the tribunal decides the allegation is not proved, the hearing ends.
If the tribunal decides any of the alleged facts are proved, the hearing continues to stage two.
Stage two: impairment
The tribunal considers if the doctor’s current fitness to practise medicine is impaired – essentially, whether the doctor is safe to continue working in medicine and treating patients.
Its decision is based on the facts found proved by the tribunal and any further relevant evidence presented.
If the tribunal finds the doctor’s fitness to practise is not impaired, the hearing won’t continue to stage three. The tribunal may decide to place a warning on the doctor’s registration in this case. A warning does not restrict a doctor’s registration or right to continue treating patients.
If the tribunal finds the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, the hearing continues to stage three.
Stage three: sanction
The representatives for the doctor and the GMC can propose what they believe the appropriate sanction, if any, should be.
The doctor or their representative may also present evidence about the doctor’s character.
The tribunal must decide what action is necessary to protect the public. It can:
- end the case with no further action
- if appropriate, accept voluntary undertakings offered by the doctor
- place conditions on the doctor’s registration for up to three years
- suspend the doctor’s registration for up to one year
- erase the doctor’s name from the medical register (except in cases that only relate to a doctor’s health or language capabilities).
If a doctor receives a suspension or conditions, the tribunal can order a review hearing (see below) to decide whether they can return to unrestricted practice or if a further sanction is necessary.
When do sanctions take effect?
Sanctions take effect 28 days after the doctor has been notified of the tribunal’s decision.
During this time, the doctor and the GMC have a right of appeal to the relevant court.
If it is deemed necessary to protect the public straight away, the tribunal can immediately order a suspension of the doctor’s registration during the appeal period or for conditions to be imposed immediately.
Where a tribunal has imposed conditions on or has suspended a doctor’s registration, it can order a review hearing before they can return to unrestricted practice.
At a review hearing, a new tribunal decides whether a doctor’s fitness to practise remains impaired. It can impose further sanctions if necessary.