We filed our appeal in November 2021 against the Medical Practitioners Tribunal’s decision to grant voluntary erasure to Dr Michael Watt (meaning that he was removed from the General Medical Council’s register before any disciplinary proceedings could be undertaken). We referred the matter to the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland because of concerns that this decision was not sufficient to protect the public.
The hearing held on 10 and 13 June 2022 was a preliminary hearing to determine whether the decision to allow Dr Watt’s voluntary erasure falls within the Authority’s section 29 jurisdiction. This was not the section 29 appeal itself.
The High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland considered submissions from all the parties involved, including two patients who had lodged judicial review proceedings against the MPTS’ decision.
The Court reached the view that the MPTS, in allowing the application for voluntary erasure, was making an administrative decision under s31A of the Medical Act 1983 and not a decision under s35D of the Medical Act 1983. The Court considered the scope of the Authority’s jurisdiction and concluded that it did not include s31A decisions. The result being that the appeal, lodged by the Authority, has no legal effect.
The Court commented that this may well be a gap in the legislation, and we will consider this in the context of the ongoing regulatory reform programme.
We are disappointed that the Court was not persuaded by our arguments. However, we believe that this was an important test case to bring. We remain concerned that the lack of any investigation into the allegations against Dr Watt continue to have a negative effect on public confidence and maintaining standards in the profession.
We are considering the Court’s decision and our next steps.
Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care
Notes to the Editor
- The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care oversees 10 statutory bodies that regulate health and social care professionals in the UK.
- We assess their performance and report to Parliament. We also conduct audits and investigations and can appeal fitness to practise cases to the courts if we consider that sanctions are insufficient to protect the public and it is in the public interest.
- We also set standards for organisations holding voluntary registers for health and social care occupations and accredit those that meet them.
- We share good practice and knowledge, conduct research and introduce new ideas to our sector. We monitor policy developments in the UK and internationally and provide advice on issues relating to professional standards in health and social care.
- We do this to promote the health, safety and wellbeing of users of health and social care services and the public. We are an independent body, accountable to the UK Parliament.
- Our values are – integrity, transparency, respect, fairness and teamwork – and we strive to ensure that they are at the core of our work.
- More information about our work and the approach we take is available at www.professionalstandards.org.uk