Appendix 1: Further background
Preliminary Proceedings Committee prior to 1 November 2004
A1.28 Between 1996 and 1 July 2003, the Preliminary Proceedings Committee had seven members. The Chair was appointed by the Council. The six other members were appointed in accordance with GMC rules,6 to ensure that the committee had four elected members, one appointed member and two lay members.
A1.29 At Preliminary Proceedings Committee hearings there had to be a minimum of five members present, including at least one lay member.
A1.30 In January 2001, the GMC issued guidance that said:
“In conduct cases the Preliminary Proceeding Committee’s task is to decide whether, in its opinion, there is a real prospect of serious professional misconduct being established before the Professional Conduct Committee. Serious professional misconduct may be considered in the context of conduct so grave as potentially to call into question a practitioner’s registration whether indefinitely, temporarily or conditionally."7
A1.31 When referring a case to the Professional Conduct Committee, the Preliminary Proceedings Committee had to indicate the matters which, in its opinion, appeared to raise the question of whether the practitioner had committed serious professional misconduct and which formed the basis of a charge or charges.
A1.32 Rule 11(2) was used by the GMC in the case against Dr Barton:8
“When referring a case to the Professional Conduct Committee the Committee shall indicate the convictions, or the matters which in their opinion appear to raise a question whether the practitioner has committed serious professional misconduct, to be so referred and to form the basis of the charge or charges;
Provided that, where the Committee refer any case relating to conduct to the Professional Conduct Committee and the Solicitor (or the complainant) later adduces grounds for further allegations of serious professional misconduct of a similar kind, such further allegations may be included in the charge or charges in the case, or the evidence of such grounds for further allegations may be introduced at the inquiry in support of that charge or those charges, notwithstanding that such allegations have not been referred to the Committee or formed part of the subject of a determination by the Committee.”
A1.33 Once the case against a doctor had been referred to the Professional Conduct Committee, Rule 11 allowed further matters of a similar kind to be added to the original case referred by the Preliminary Conduct Committee.
Professional Conduct Committee prior to 1 November 2004
A1.34 From 1996 to 1 July 2003, there were 23 medical members and seven lay members on the Professional Conduct Committee. All members of the committee were also members of the Council itself.
A1.35 Hearings had to be heard by at least five members; at least one had to be a lay member. Members of the Professional Conduct Committee could not also be members of the Preliminary Proceedings Committee.
A1.36 In 2000, the Constitution Rules were amended to reduce the minimum number of members on a panel to three, including at least one medical and one lay member.
A1.37 From 1 July 2003 to 1 November 2004, the 2003 Transitional Rules applied to the constitution of the Professional Conduct Committee. They stated that “membership of each of the fitness to practise committees [which included the Professional Conduct Committee] shall comprise of doctors and lay persons appointed to each of those committees by the Council and included on lists of persons for each of those committees maintained by the Council”. Members of the Council could still sit as members of the Professional Conduct Committee.
Procedure during Professional Conduct Committee hearings prior to 1 November 2004
A1.38 A Professional Conduct Committee hearing would begin with the practitioner being asked if they accepted any or all of the facts alleged in the charges.9
A1.39 If the practitioner did not accept all the facts, evidence would be called to allow the committee to determine whether any of the facts were proved. Once the panel had decided which facts had been found proved or admitted, it then considered whether or not those facts would be “insufficient to support a finding of serious professional misconduct”.10
A1.40 If the facts were insufficient, then the case would proceed no further.
A1.41 If it was decided that the facts were not insufficient to support a finding of serious professional misconduct, the Panel went on to consider whether or not there had been serious professional misconduct.
A1.42 The committee Chair would then invite the Solicitor or Complainant to address the committee as to: (i) the circumstances leading to those facts; (ii) the extent to which such facts are indicative of serious professional misconduct; and (iii) the character and previous history of the practitioner. The practitioner would then be invited to put forward any mitigation.
A1.43 The committee would then determine whether it found the practitioner to have been guilty of serious professional misconduct.
A1.44 If the committee found the practitioner guilty of serious professional misconduct, it would consider whether to make a “direction” immediately, or postpone that decision.11
A1.45 If the Professional Conduct Committee found a doctor guilty of serious professional misconduct, it could direct that conditions be placed on the doctor’s registration, or order a suspension of his or her practising certificate, or order the practitioner’s erasure from the register.
A1.46 If the committee decided to make a direction, Rule 31 of the 1988 Rules set out that it had to consider the available sanctions in this order:
- Is conditional registration sufficient to protect members of the public or is it in the practitioner’s interests?
- If conditions would not be sufficient, would it be sufficient to direct that the practitioner’s registration shall be suspended?
- If suspension would not be sufficient, the committee would direct erasure.
GMC (Constitution of FTP Committees) Rules 1996, Rule 3(1).
HM Government, 2002. The Shipman Inquiry. Fifth report, Safeguarding Patients: Lessons from the Past – Proposals for the Future. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20090808160144/http://www.the-shipman-inquiry.org.uk/fifthreport.asp (accessed 17 May 2018), paragraph 20.147.
1988 Professional Conduct Rules, Rule 11(2).
Part V of the 1988 Rules set out the procedures.
1988 Professional Conduct Rules, Rule 27(2).
1988 Professional Conduct Rules, Rule 30.