Kings View Chambers’ joint head of Chambers and leading GMC Defence Barrister, Catherine Stock, represented Dr US. Before the GMC, she argued successfully that the doctor’s actions did not necessarily warrant a referral to a fitness to practise tribunal, given the circumstances.
In this article, I want to look at GMC rule 7, what it entails and what is expected of doctors.
Once the GMC has triaged a complaint about a doctor and found there may be a case to answer, an investigation will commence.
After the investigation stage, the case is passed to case examiners. It is at this stage where the GMC will write to the Doctor (also known as a rule 7 letter). The rule 7 letter will outline the allegations made in the complaint and ask the doctor to comment. The doctor has 28 days to respond to this letter.
It is important for doctors to respond to this letter. It is also strongly advisable that doctors who have been sent rule 7 letters, seek specialist legal advice.
Doctors are expected to show insight and reflection into the gravity of what may have happened and demonstrate that they have taken action to remedy any deficiencies. Remediation and can have a positive influence on the outcome of the case.
In more rare cases, doctors are invited to attend a meeting with a case examiner. This meeting will also be attended by a GMC lawyer. Doctors invited to attend such a meeting can, and is it strongly advisable should, be represented by a specialist GMC barrister.
Regardless of whether the doctor was asked for a written response of invited to attend a meeting, the next steps in the process is the same. Case examiners will consider all the evidence, including the doctor’s response in applying the ‘realistic prospect’ legal test. From this, only cases where there is a realistic prospect of establishing that the doctor’s fitness to practise is sufficiently impaired to justify action on registration will be referred to a Fitness to Practise tribunal hearing.
It is also open to case examiners to also close the case at this stage. Other outcomes can include: