In the recent, much publicised, High Court decision of General Medical Council v Bawa-Garba  EWHC 76 (Admin), delivered on 28 January 2018, the appeal by the General Medical Council (“GMC”) against the decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (“MPTS”) to suspend Dr Bawa-Garba’s registration for 12 months was allowed.
Under Section 40A(3) of the Medical Act 1983, the General Medical Council may appeal against a decision of the MPTS to the relevant court if they consider that a decision made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal is not sufficient (whether as to finding, penalty or both) for the purposes of the protection of the public.
The matter of Dr Bawa-Garba concerned a trainee doctor specialising in paediatrics who, in November 2015, was convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence of a 6 year old boy. Dr Bawa-Garba was given a two year suspended sentence.
Following the conclusion of the criminal proceedings, Dr Bawa-Garba appeared before the MPTS. By that time, Bawa-Garba had practised safely for the four years following the original incident. Consequently, the Tribunal had found that the doctor’s “clinical failings, serious as they were, had been remedied, leaving a low risk of future harm”.
To that end, in June 2017 the MPTS recommended that Dr Bawa-Garba be suspended from the Medical Register for 12 months, rejecting an appeal from the GMC to to have Dr Bawa-Garba erased from the register. The MPTS concluded that erasure would be disproportionate, and that a fully informed and reasonable member of the public would view suspension as an appropriate sanction. It held that suspension was sufficient to maintain both public confidence in the profession and also proper standards.
GMC Appeal to High Court
The General Medical Council (“GMC”), by contrast, considered the sanction to be too lenient. The GMC applied for a judicial review of the MPTS decision in the High Court and argued that the tribunal was wrong in concluding that Dr Bawa-Garba be allowed to continue to practise when her suspension concluded.
The Divisional High Court, comprising Gross L.J. and Ouseley J, agreed with the GMC and ordered that Dr Bawa-Garba be erased from the register. In so finding, the Court noted that it was operating within a regulatory legal framework in which public confidence in the system outweighs matters of personal mitigation.
GMC – Right to Appeal
The GMC may appeal an MPTS decision under Section 40A of the Medical Act 1983 if they consider that the decision “is not sufficient for the protection of the public.” In assessing the adequacy or otherwise of an MPTS sanction, the GMC will consider whether the decision is sufficient:
- to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of the public;
- to promote and maintain public confidence in the medical profession; and
- to promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of that profession.
The GMC right of appeal has been exercised on just a few occasions previously. Our previous blog regarding the GMC’s use of this statutory provison can be accessed here.
The judgment can be accessed here.