No guidelines have been issued by the Department in relation to the independence and objectivity of General Medical Council (GMC) fitness to practise hearings.
In 2004, the GMC introduced a package of reforms to its fitness to practise procedures that included changes to the adjudication process.
Key aspects of the changes included:
the separation of functions between investigation and adjudication;
GMC Council members no longer have any role in fitness to practise casework and decision-making; and
fitness to practise panels are populated by a pool of medical and lay panellists. All panellists are appointed against competencies and the recruitment and appointment process is overseen by independent assessors from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
All panellists must receive training on the GMC’s fitness to practice procedures before they are eligible to sit on a panel. The GMC introduced Indicative Sanctions Guidance in 2001. This provides guidance to panellists on the factors that they should consider in determining the appropriate sanction in each case. The medical and lay panellists appointed to sit on the panels exercise their own judgments in making decisions, but must take into consideration the standards of good practice the GMC has established which have been drawn up after wide consultation and which reflect what society expects of doctors.