Since December 2015, the General Medical Council (“GMC”) has had the power to appeal decisions of the MPTS, the tribunal which considers Inquiries in respect of registered medical practitioners who are alleged to have breached GMC standards.

1. Right of Appeal

Although the power has existed for in excess of 18 months, it is only recently that the provision has been utilised with the first High Court judgment being handed down in May 2017 in the case of General Medical Council v Jagjivan [2017] EWHC 1247 (Admin).

The power has since been used by the GMC for a second time, in the case of General Medical Council v Theodoropoulos [2017] EWHC 1984 (Admin) where, on 31 July 2017, the High Court handed down its second judgment in an appeal by the GMC against a decision made by a panel of the MPTS.

2. General Medical Council v Theodoropoulos

Dr Theodoropoulos had practised in the UK as a consultant ophthalmologist for a period of time until his registration lapsed in 2005, whereupon he returned to private practice in Greece. Subsequently, in March 2015, Dr Theodoropoulos’ name reappeared on the GMC Register.

In the context of the Inquiry, it was alleged that Dr Theodoropoulos had used computer software to amend the GMC registration entry relating to him and had then circulated a print-out of the altered entry to a locum agency with a view to seeking employment.

The MPTS found the allegations to be proven and that they amounted to misconduct. Ultimately, a 12 month suspension order was imposed.

3. GMC Appeal

The GMC appealed the decision on the basis that the MPTS had erred in imposing a suspension order only, in circumstances where the GMC was of the view that the appropriate sanction was erasure of the respondent’s name from the register.

In considering the matter, Mr Justice Lewis concluded that the MPTS was wrong to determine that suspension was an appropriate and proportionate sanction and therefore allowed the GMC’s appeal. In quashing the suspension order and substituting an order for erasure, Lewis J provided the following reasoning for the substitution of sanction:

‘Given the nature of the dishonest conduct, the denials of the respondent, and the absence of any evidence of insight or remediation, it is difficult to regard the possibility of developing insight or remediation as a basis upon which it could be said that suspension was appropriate.’

4. Comment

Whilst a similar right of appeal does not exist for the Medical Council, the regulator for registered medical practitioners in the Republic of Ireland, this decision provides useful insight in terms of the degree to which powers of this nature will be used, where present.

The frequency with which the power of appeal is used as well as the circumstances where the appeal is used by the GMC in future cases will be followed with interest.