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Public & Regulatory Law Alert - August 2011

Matthew Lohn


United Kingdom

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Case News

Regulatory News


Case news

Levy v General Medical Council (2011) QBD (Admin)(Judge Pearl)

Dr Levy appealed the decision of the General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Panel (FTPP) to impose a 9 month suspension upon his registration and to hold a review hearing prior to the end of that period.

Dr Levy, a forensic psychiatrist working within the prison service, had received a police caution for fraud by false representation and a conviction for driving without insurance. He had been stopped by the police while driving and a police check had shown that he was not insured. Dr Levy had produced two insurance certificates and insisted that the car he was in was insured. On contacting the insurance company, the police were told that the document was false and interviewed Dr Levy who then stated that the insurance had been arranged by a relative. In a second interview he admitted that he had created the false document himself on the computer.

Dr Levy appeared before the GMC’s FTPP and argued that a family member had given him the document. He argued that he had not been wilfully dishonest but had taken responsibility to protect the family member.

The FTPP hearing adjourned and when it resumed 6 months later Dr Levy admitted he had lied at the previous hearing. The Panel found that his fitness to practise was impaired due to the police caution, his related conviction, his failure to disclosure the matters to the GMC, and having lied under oath to the Panel. The Panel further determined that his registration should be suspended for 9 months and that a review hearing would take place before the end of the period of suspension.

In that time the Panel would find it helpful to receive written testimonials as to good character since the time of suspension, evidence to show that he had taken steps to increase his insight into this dishonesty, and evidence of steps taken to keep his medical knowledge up to date.

Dr Levy did not appeal the finding of impairment, but did appeal the sanction imposed and the requirements for the review hearing as detailed in the FTPP decision and set out in the decision letter which he had received.

Dismissing the appeal, the High Court stated that the test was whether the decision being appealed was wrong. On the facts, Dr Levy could not show that the sanction imposed by the Panel was in any way wrong. In fact, the decision to impose a 9 month period of suspension rather than imposing a longer suspension or erasing his name from the medical register could be viewed as generous given the serious dishonesty allegations. The doctor’s particular line of work meant that there was even more reason why the Panel should take seriously the dishonesty committed including lying under oath. The sanction imposed was appropriate.

In terms of the requirements for the review panel, the Court found that Paragraph 115 of the GMC’s Indicative Sanctions Guidance did not always require a review hearing and merely set out the form of information that the review panel might find helpful. The terms of the decision letter provided the basis upon which Dr Levy could engage over the period of his suspension. In any event, the Court found that Dr Levy’s submissions relating to the review panel were outside the scope of the appeal to the Court. The Panel’s expectation as to what the review panel might find useful in the future could not form the basis of criticism at this stage, as such expectations did not amount to an appealable decision under Section 40 of the Medical Act 1983.

The appeal was dismissed.

Regulatory news

HTA - New Chief Executive

Alan Clamp, currently Director of Regulation at the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer. Alan joined the HTA in January 2011 and will take up the role of CEO on 1 October 2011.

GMC -  New tribunal service to be established

Plans for a new Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service have been approved by the General Medical Council’s (GMC’s) Council. A three-month consultation showed strong support for the plans (76%) and the new body will be in place from as early as next year, headed by a senior judicial figure. The Tribunal will operate separately from the GMC’s investigative division and is a central part of the GMC’s agenda of reforms.

CHRE - Standards for Senior NHS managers

The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) is to develop high-level standards for both executive and non-executive NHS board members in England.

The announcement was made by Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS in England following the Government’s commitment in the recent Command Paper, Enabling Excellence - Autonomy and Accountability for Healthcare Workers, Social Workers and Social Care Workers.

The standards developed by CHRE will build on work already done in this area and will cover three areas: 1) Technical competence and ability to carry out the job, 2) Personal behaviours and accountability and 3) Business practices including financial probity.

GOsC - Proposed change to witness evidence at GOsC hearings

The General Osteopathic Council’s (GOsC’s) Professional Conduct Committee is consulting with interested parties and stakeholders about a proposed change to the way in which witnesses present their evidence at hearings.

Currently, witnesses in GOsC fitness to practise hearings read out their written statement. The consultation is open until 30 September 2011 and more information can be found in the consultation document, ‘Change to the Notice to Osteopaths and Legal Representatives: consultation’. 

GTC - Concerns over the loss of teachers’ code of conduct

The General Teaching Council for England (GTC) has warned that the loss of the existing professional code for teachers has serious implications for the public interest.

The Review Group published recommendations earlier this month, with the suggestion to replace the existing Professional Standards and current Code of Conduct and Practice for Registered Teachers with a single set of standards.

The General Teaching Council is concerned that the new standards do not fully encompass both the ethical aspect of teaching, or the conduct expected of a qualified teacher.

GTC - Changes to teacher disciplinary and induction regulations proposed

This consultation document discusses the proposed changes to the disciplinary and induction regulations for teachers in England.

HFEA - New rules on family donation

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has reached two key decisions in relation to family donations.

Firstly, guidance will be introduced for clinics instructing them not to mix the sperm and eggs of close genetic relatives. No explicit ban currently exists and the public have expressed concern in relation to this.

Secondly, the Authority decided to keep the current family limit at 10 – this refers to the number of families a single donor can create. The decisions follow a comprehensive review and three-month public consultation.

HPC - Social workers to be regulated - consultation launched by HPC

Two consultations have been launched by the Health Professionals Council (HPC) in relation to the proposal for social workers to be regulated. Stakeholders have been invited to give their views on firstly, its standards of proficiency for social workers and secondly, the threshold level of qualification for entry onto the Register. The consultation ends on 18 November 2011.

NMC - Discussion on professional regulation taken to the House of Lords

The NMC met with peers at the end of June 2011 to discuss concerns about standards of nursing care, following a number of high profile stories in the media.

The meeting was held following a recent House of Lords debate, where the quality of nursing care was scrutinised by peers. A range of issues were discussed, including how professional standards are maintained across the health and social care sector and the role of the NMC in maintaining public confidence in the professions.

NMC - issues advice on social networking sites

The NMC has issued advice to 660,000 registered nurses and midwives on the use of social networking sites, such as Facebook. This follows an increase in the number of enquiries about online behaviour by nurses and midwives, which has already led to a number of registrants being struck off.

The NMC advises registrants to exercise caution and suggestions include not accepting friend requests from patients and not posting photographs that have patients in them. The NMC adopts a no-nonsense approach, stating that online misconduct is to be treated as seriously as misconduct in the real world.

NMC - Midwife teachers are key part of ensuring new midwives are fit for practice

An independent report commissioned by the Nursing and Midwifery Council has found that midwife teachers play a unique role in ensuring newly qualified midwives are fit for practice.

The Midwives in Teaching report found that midwife teachers are an invaluable resource, helping students and newly qualified midwives to transfer their learning and education into the workplace.

Although the current education system produces competent midwives, recommendations were made for improvements. One of the suggestions was for teachers to be visible and accessible to both students and mentors in clinical practice, in order to help students when providing hands on care and monitor learning and assessment decisions.

SRA - New Equality Framework launched

A three month public and stakeholder consultation has led to the launch of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) Equality Framework. The SRA obtained responses from the Law Society, the Bar Standards Board, the Legal Services Commission and the Legal Services Consumer Panel.

The focus of the consultation was focused mainly on the SRA’s proposed equality objectives, proposals for publishing equality information and its engagement strategy. The aim for the SRA is now to ensure that respect for human rights and equality are entrenched within its new authorisation, supervision and enforcement functions.

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