Recruiting medical panellists: a vital job for patient safety

With recruitment currently open for medical panellists, Tamarind Ashcroft, Head of Panel Development, talks about their importance and role. Every year Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) panels hear hundreds of cases against doctors. Each hearing has a panel of three sitting on it to make an independent decision about any action that should be taken in order to protect the public.

Since the MPTS was launched in 2012 there have been more than 800 Fitness to Practise hearings and more than 4,500 Interim Orders Panel hearings. To service these hearings, we have a pool of 277 panellists, of whom 123 are medically qualified with a licence to practise.

Our panellists are crucial in ensuring the protection of the public and maintaining proper standards in the profession. So, it is important that we have both medically qualified and lay panellists sitting on our hearings to make decisions about doctors’ fitness to practise based on the evidence put before them.

MPTS logo and panellist

“Being a panellist carries with it a great deal of responsibility, but it’s also incredibly rewarding”

High calibre panellists

Making sure we get the highest calibre panellists is important. They are going to be adjudicating on issues of patient safety, so we recruit to the very highest standard, helping to ensure consistent and well-reasoned decisions.

We recruit panellists from across the medical profession and actively encourage applicants from a BME background, women and those with a disability.

We look for people with demonstrable integrity and objectivity, along with the ability to reach considered, unbiased decisions affecting other people.

The decisions panels make have a huge impact, both on the doctor before them and on the public’s trust in the medical profession, which is a big responsibility. If a panel find a doctor’s fitness to practise impaired they can decide to take no further action, impose conditions on their work, suspend them from practice or ultimately permanently remove a doctor from the medical register.

Support and training

We make sure our panellists, both those who are medically qualified and lay, are properly supported in this important work. We have a significant training programme, not only when new panellists come on board, but annually. We also actively encourage review and reflection, with feedback on key decisions and reviews of a selection of decisions by a quality assurance group.

The GMC’s Fitness to Practise Rules (PDF) govern how our panels work and the Indicative Sanctions Guidance (PDF) assists panels when making decisions on the appropriate sanction, if any, to apply. These provide panellists with clear parameters when hearing a case and, ultimately, when deciding on its outcome.

There’s no doubt that being a panellist carries with it a great deal of responsibility, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. For any doctor that finds themselves before a hearing I believe it is important for them to see one of their peers sitting on a panel, so the recruitment of medical members is extremely important.

We are currently recruiting new medical panellists and would encourage anybody interested in the role to apply.

Recruitment is open until Sunday 26 October. For more information visit the MPTS website.

Tamarind Ashcroft, Head of Panel Recruitment
Tamarind Ashcroft is Head of Panel Development at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service 

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