The MDU has said it believes virtual Medical Practitioners Tribunal service (MPTS) regulatory hearings have brought benefits in some cases, which could continue in future.
As part of a panel discussing how the pandemic has changed hearings, Ian Barker, MDU senior solicitor, will explain that virtual interim orders hearings can be more convenient and less stressful for those taking part. The same may be the case for fitness to practise hearings in which there is uncontested evidence. However, in complex cases, in-person hearings may well be appropriate for all concerned.
The MDU has also issued some practical tips for doctors taking part in virtual hearings.
"The pandemic has led to a sea-change in the way hearings have been handled and some of these changes, while not being things we would all otherwise have been inclined to try, have been positive. Some forms of virtual hearings can be more convenient and less stressful, with doctors being able to take part from the comfort of their own home or workplace, rather than in person. However, we still advise members to behave as they would when appearing in person [see tips below].
"Virtual hearings could work well in certain cases where the facts are agreed or where a health concern has been raised, for example. They have also been a productive way of holding interim orders tribunals, which can decide whether to suspend a doctor or impose restrictions, pending a full investigation.
"However, in complex cases where the facts are contested or it is necessary to call a number of witnesses, in-person hearings may very well be fairer for all parties and should continue.
"The MDU remains very happy to continue to work with the MPTS and to feed back to them about the impact on our members of the new arrangements. The GMC and MPTS face a challenge in clearing the backlog of cases that have resulted from the pandemic. However, we welcome the strides made in adapting to the current circumstances."
MDU tips for doctors appearing at virtual hearings
- Make sure you have all the documentation about the case to hand and have downloaded the app necessary to take part.
- Log on in plenty of time and ensure you are familiar with the technology, such as how to mute and unmute your microphone.
- Use a work device to take part, rather than a personal one, and make sure it is fully charged.
- Ensure there is a suitable background and preferably choose somewhere quiet where you won't be interrupted.
- Dress smartly - and not just your top half, in case you need to stand up.
- Be aware of your posture and body language. Behave in the same way as if you were appearing in a court room in person.
- Have a glass of water handy and have a comfort break before you start.
- Speak clearly while looking at the camera. If you have to look away to your notes, explain that's what you are doing.
This page was correct at publication on 01/12/2020. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.