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R (Patel) v General Medical Council (2013) EWCA Civ 327

Sarah Ellson
10/05/2013
P appealed against the order of Hickinbottom J dismissing his application for judicial review of the decision of the GMC to refuse to accept his Primary Medical Qualification ("PMQ") obtained from the P appealed against the order of Hickinbottom J dismissing his application for judicial review of the decision of the GMC to refuse to accept his Primary Medical Qualification ("PMQ") obtained from the International University of Health Sciences, St. Kitts and Nevis ("IUHS") as an acceptable overseas qualification pursuant to section 21C Medical Act 1983.

Between 2005 and 2011, P had undertaken studies at the IUHS, following assurance given by the GMC in email exchanges in 2004 that both the course and its distance learning element satisfied the GMC's requirements for PMQ. Following completion of the course, P wished to take up a post on a foundation programme, prior to which he was required to pass a PLAB examination and obtain provisional registration with the GMC. However, P was informed by the GMC that his PMQ was "not currently acceptable to the GMC" in accordance with the new criteria introduced in 2006 and 2010. It subsequently refused to recognise P's qualification, in November 2011, following his application for provisional registration.

In considering the matter, the Court of Appeal concluded that the statutory scheme that the GMC operated under the Medical Act 1983 did not exclude the operation of the principle of legitimate expectation. 

The Court was satisfied that P was given a legitimate expectation when he received a clear, unequivocal and unqualified response from the Registration and Education Directorate of the GMC, in response to his emails requesting clarification of the current regulations concerning the recognition of overseas PMQ courses. The Court was further unable to identify any sufficient public interest which outweighed the unfairness to P of refusing to honour the assurance given and to recognise his qualification.

It was therefore concluded in the particular circumstances of this case that it was not open to the GMC to change its recognition of qualifications policies without adopting some transitional provisions, and the GMC was therefore compelled to recognise P's qualification.

Read the case here.

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