Sethna Saverymuttu v General Medical Council (2011)

[2011] EWHC 1139 (Admin)

Rice v Health Professions Council (2011)

QBD (Admin) 6 May 2011

These two decisions each confirm the reluctance of the courts to interfere with decisions relating to fitness to practise, where those decisions reflect the proper exercise of regulators' powers.

In the first case, the General Medical Council's (GMC) Fitness to Practise Panel found dishonesty against a doctor in his claims to private medical insurers. The Panel suspended him for 12 months. The doctor appealed.

On appeal, the court found that the fact the Panel had heard live evidence over the course of 20 days meant it had a significant advantage in considering the reliability and credibility of the witnesses. The court held that the Panel had been entitled to reach the conclusions that it had and that it would be unusual for a court which had access only to transcripts of the original hearing to overturn the decision.

In the second case, the Health Professions Council's ( HPC) Conduct and Competence Committee struck off a paramedic, Mr Rice, who had supplied an out of date controlled drug to a colleague who later died. Mr Rice was arrested and charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. He was acquitted.

The matter was then considered by the Committee, which found that Mr Rice's fitness to practise was impaired and ordered that he be struck off.

Mr Rice appealed against the finding of impairment and the sanction imposed. The court held that the decision-making bodies of the regulators were ideally placed to determine questions of fitness to practise, as they have the expertise to assess how registrants' past misconduct may affect fitness to practise in the future, and also hear live evidence. The court found that the Committee had properly considered Mr Rice's case, was entitled to make the findings that it had and that the sanction it had imposed was appropriate.