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Some 27 fitness to practise (FTP) inquiries were completed in 2020, compared with 34 in 2019, according to figures released by the Medical Council. There were 25 committee days held, as opposed to 75 in 2019. In 2020, some 231 decisions were made by the Council’s preliminary proceedings committee (PPC), 26 of which were prima facie and 205 non-prima facie. This constituted a substantial drop from 388 decisions made in 2019, which comprised 47 prima facie and 341 non-prima facie decisions.
The PPC refers a complaint to the FTP committee if it considers there is a prima facie case to warrant further action being taken. Of the 27 inquiries completed during 2020, eight were held pre-pandemic and eight were completed remotely via Zoom. Eleven have been completed at the Council’s offices at Kingram House on a hybrid basis, whereby the FTP committee was in attendance in the Medical Council, but witnesses gave evidence in person or remotely.
A Council spokesperson commented:
“The inquiry room at Kingram House has been configured in order for hybrid hearings to be held in line with public health guidance on physical distancing and Government restrictions and the Medical Council is ensuring that the number of participants physically present at any such hearing is kept to the minimum necessary in order for the hearing to run.”
On 6 August 2020, the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 was signed into law, which made explicit provision for the hearings of public bodies to take place either entirely or partly remotely. The Council became a designated body under this legislation on 19 November 2020.
Following the Government announcement to apply additional level five restrictions in January 2021, the Medical Council continued to hold call-over hearings for the case-management of inquiries. It was “continuing to arrange to hold inquiries in a fully remote manner, where appropriate, and will resume hybrid hearings as soon as is feasible having regard to Government restrictions”.