The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has urged medical regulators to continue with face-to-face disciplinary hearings in cases where a significant amount of evidence is contested.
The MDU made the comments in its response to the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA) review of what lessons healthcare professional regulators can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Matthew Lee, professional services director, explained:
"We support the continued use of virtual Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) regulatory hearings in some cases. As we explained at the recent GMC annual conference, virtual interim orders hearings and fitness to practise hearings in which there is uncontested evidence can be more convenient and less stressful for those taking part.
"However, we have considerable concerns about virtual hearings in cases where there is a significant amount of contested evidence. Depending on how the next few months develop with controlling this pandemic and the deployment of vaccines, we can foresee the MPTS moving to schedule such cases for virtual hearings.
"The MPTS does not consider the nature of the allegation or the type of hearing to be a relevant consideration when deciding whether a virtual hearing is appropriate, according to its guidance. However, in complex cases, where the facts are contested, or where it is necessary to call a number of witnesses, in-person hearings may be fairer for all parties and should continue. We have asked for assurances that our views about the appropriateness of a virtual hearing will be considered.
"Overall we are happy with the way the GMC and MPTS have been responsive and agile in the face of COVID-19, adapting their processes to take account of the difficult circumstances faced by frontline workers. We are continuing to work with the regulators and others to ensure our members are not disadvantaged by the current arrangements."
The MDU has also published tips for doctors on appearing at virtual hearings.
This page was correct at publication on 05/01/2021. 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.