The General Medical Council (GMC) has been given the go ahead by the GMC’s Council to establish the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

Part of the MPTS’ function will be the day to day operational management of adjudications and will begin the separation of the hearings department from the investigation limb of the organisation. An external body will shortly begin the process of appointing a senior judicial figure who will oversee the appointment and performance management of panel members. The service is intended to begin in 2012 and is part of reforms which also include the move to hold all hearings in Manchester.

During a three month consultation period, 76 per cent of those who responded supported the implementation of the MPTS. However, in responding to the planned reforms, the Medical Defence Union (MDU) said that whilst they are pleased the GMC is working towards “separation”, they do not think the proposal goes far enough and “greater safeguards” are required to ensure the tribunals are entirely separate from the GMC.

The reforms also included other initiatives including the appointment of legally qualified chairs and removing the need for a legal advisor.

Commenting on the GMC’s Council’s decision, the Chief Executive Niall Dickson said: “this is a major reform and will signal clearly the need for panel hearings to be autonomous and to be seen to be autonomous.”

The Medical Protection Society also welcomed the decision for the GMC to establish the MPTS, though Medical Director, Dr Priya Singh, cautioned: “we recognise the importance of gaining costs efficiencies from the fitness to practise system, but this cannot be at the expense of fairness to doctors.”