GP wins against GMC for releasing fitness-to-practise report to a patient

The High Court has actually ruled that the GMC was wrong to decide to disclose a complete report concerning a GP’s physical fitness to practice to a patient who wanted to file a medical negligence claim.

In the recent case, a GP – referred to as Dr DB – went through a fitness-to-practice investigation after a patient grumbled that the GP’s incompetence had resulted in a year’s hold-up in medical diagnosis of bladder cancer.

The GMC commissioned an independent report into the GP but found there was no additional action to be taken against the GP.

The GMC gave the client a summary of the report, however the patient asked for the full report as they were thinking about pursuing a negligence claim.

The GP refused to give his approval for the report to be shared, however the GMC chose to disclose it anyway. It didn’t launch the report pending the legal case brought about by the GP, which he won.

The High Court ruled that the GMC had failed to provide adequate weight to the GP’s refusal to reveal the report and did not consider the motive of the patient’s demand– to use the report in litigation against the GP instead of to check the precision of information held about them, which the Data Protection Act provides for.

Katherine Taylor, a barrister specialising in regulative matters for healthcare said that the case reveals that medical professionals have a very genuine personal privacy right over a report which concentrates on professional competence, and this case is particularly essential for those who find themselves based on investigation by the GMC.

A GMC representative said that although we had decided in principle to release the report having actually performed a stabilizing workout, we selected not to do so pending the court ruling.

We are presently thinking about the judgment, its ramifications and any additional steps which the GMC ought to take in relation to the case.

Dr Pallavi Bradshaw, senior medico-legal advisor  said that we are really happy that Mr Justice Soole concluded that our member’s claim against the GMC, seeking to prevent it from disclosing its professional report to the complainant, should succeed.

This has actually been an incredibly useful judgment for Medical Defense members and the broader occupation as the disclosure of expert reports to complainants can cause medical professionals additional tension normally at a time when medical professionals may believe the case against them has actually been closed.

It comes as the GMC is in the process of changing how it performs investigations to minimize the effect on physicians, following suggestions made by an independent review of its fitness-to-practise procedure.

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