SMPs Have No GMC Immunity

…the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.”
[Defend the right to be offended (openDemocracy, 7 February 2005)]”
― Salman Rushdie

Pop quiz:  Have you heard of  General Medical Council v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1390.  It was a judgement handed down by the Court of Appeal on 26 October 2006.

No?  Doesn’t ring a bell?  You are not alone. We’ve read the majority of literature published on selected medical practitioners (SMPs) and the relationship they have with the Police Injury Benefit Regulations but had never come across this case law either.

General Medical Council v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1390 (26 October 2006)

You are here: BAILII Databases England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions General Medical Council v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1390 (26 October 2006) URL: Cite as: [2006] EWCA Civ 1390, [2007] ICR 701, [2007] QB 462, [2007] 2 WLR 286, [2007] LS Law Medical 1, [2007] 1 FLR 1398, [2006] 3 FCR 447, [2007] 1 All ER 1, 92 BMLR 51, (2006) 92 BMLR 51, [2007] Fam Law 214, [2007] 1 QB 462, [2006] 44 EG 196

We have read, however, that Nicholas Wirz, solicitor for Northumbria police, thinks the GMC code of ethics and GMC guidelines are irrelevant to the function of a SMP.  He essentially has been advising that SMPS can behave badly towards IOD pensioners with no consequences from the GMC.

Remember, Wirz is the chap who is busy advising Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire how Regulation 33 can be stretched as thin as a cheapest, gossamer see-through pair of budget nylon tights. The visible result of this self-appointed quasi-guru’s meddling is that disabled former officers are seeing their injury pensions unlawfully reduced from band four to band one. The not so visible result is traumatised, bullied, frightened disabled former officers, many of whom are vulnerable due to mental health problems, and who feel they have no way of challenging the appalling behaviour of some SMPs.

Wirz says in his training material to SMPs

The GMC believes it has jurisdiction over medical practitioners performing a statutory function under the Regulations. Officers/Pensioners commonly make complaints to the GMC against both SMPs and those other medical practitioners the SMP instructs to assist with and inform the SMP process.Para 5.1 POLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION

And then he continues to assert that this belief is mistaken:

The SMP takes their authority from the statute as interpreted by the courts. Does the GMC have any locus in these circumstances? In other scenarios where medical practitioners perform a judicial function, taking their authority from the relevant enabling legislation/common law, the GMC has no jurisdiction. An example would be the role of CoronerPara 5.2 POLICE PENSIONS (SMP) DEVELOPMENT EVENT 31 JANUARY 2014 MR NICHOLAS WIRZ PRESENTATION

So where does this proclamation by Wirz that the GMC has no jurisdiction leave us? In the training material referred to above, Wirz makes no reference at all to General Medical Council v Meadow. Why? We can not believe he is unaware of the case, nor fully cognisant of its implications for SMPs. Asking as we are, in this rhetorical way, it seems the judgement has some of the characteristics that Wirz would like to ignore. So he has done just that – he does not mention it. Wirz’s modus operandi is to present only material which appears to support his peculiar, warped, biased and objective-driven view of the Regulations.

This case concerned Professor Sir Roy Meadow, the infamous paediatrician, and his evidence in the case of Sally Clark, who became the victim of a miscarriage of justice when she was found guilty of the murder of her two elder sons.

The Fitness to Practise Panel (FTPP) of the GMC found serious professional misconduct to be proved, and ordered Professor Meadow’s name to be erased from the register. Professor Meadow appealed both against the finding of serious professional misconduct and the sanction of erasure.

The GMC had sought to protect the public by removing Meadow’s registration. This action was in response to his serious professional misconduct, or impaired fitness to practice, which was evidenced by testimony given by him in a criminal court. The doctor’s appeal was based on a claim that the evidence given by him in court was privileged. Immunity is a common law concept. It is given to witnesses to encourage them to give evidence, and to avoid multiplicity of actions.

Meadow won the appeal on the argument that the purpose of the GMC’s FTP (fitness to practice) proceedings is not there to punish the practitioner for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those doctors who have shown they are not fit to practise.

In other words the FTPP should look forward not back, and the FTPP got this wrong, so the GMC appeal failed.

The important part of the ruling is that the court did however rule that the GMC did indeed have the jurisdiction it claimed. There is no blanket immunity permissible for doctors to never be referred to the GMC for misconduct or impairment to practice. It depends on the type of misconduct or impairment.

Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke covered the GMC’s statutory function, powers and duties of the GMC as governed by the Medical Act 1983;

  1. It is I think inconceivable that the draftsman of any of these provisions could have thought that a person against whom there was a case to answer that he was guilty of serious professional misconduct or, now, that his fitness to practise was impaired, would or might be entitled to an immunity of the kind suggested here. Such immunity would, to my mind, be inconsistent or potentially inconsistent with the principle that only those who are fit to practise should be permitted to do so.

So on the matter of granting an immunity which had not, up to 2006 been explicitly recognised, the judge considered that the immunity did not need to be absolute.

There was no reason why the judge before whom an expert gave evidence (or the Court of Appeal where appropriate) should not refer his conduct to the relevant disciplinary body if satisfied that his conduct had fallen so far below what was expected of him as to merit disciplinary action.

Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke said in his judgement,

However, I should say at once that in this regard I accept the submission made by Mr Henderson on behalf of the GMC. It is that, although the need for fearlessness and the avoidance of a multiplicity of actions has been held to outweigh the private interest in civil redress, hence the immunity from civil suit, those public policy benefits do not and cannot (or at least should not) override the public interest in the protection of the public’s health and safety enshrined in the GMC’s statutory duty to bring FTP proceedings where a registered medical practitioner’s fitness to practise is impaired. A similar point can be made in the case of other professions and occupations, with more or less force depending upon the particular circumstances.

Meadow seemingly won the appeal on a technicality of the failings of the FTPP  – not because the GMC’s FTPP did not have jurisdiction.

All the doctors brainwashed by Nicholas Wirz via his ramblings presented at meetings of the NWEF and at the College of Policing should realise that the equivalent immunity from professional regulatory investigation or proceedings, which Wirz tells those gullible enough to listen to him applies to SMPs, has been held by the Court of Appeal to be contrary to the public interest in the case of expert witnesses.

Nowadays, the GMC has the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).  Whether or not the GMC case examiners or the investigation committee are satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of establishing that the doctor’s fitness to practise is impaired, and so refers complaints to the MPTS,  is down to the facts of the matter being alleged.  Perhaps the conduct does or doesn’t touch on fitness to practice issues.  Maybe the matter concerns a breach of GMC guidance such as failing to treat the former officer as a patient or to ignore the requirements to disclose medical reports BEFORE disclosure to the force.  Guidance such as this  Confidentiality & Disclosure GMC.

But the take-home here is that Wirz is wrong yet again.  How many vulnerable former officers have not pursued complaints because he has told them the SMP is out of bounds?  Perhaps even Wirz knew about the GMC v Meadows judgement and wanted to bamboozle those about the threshold level required for the GMC to act. Who knows.  We know that there is a world of difference between “no jurisdiction” and  the threshold of fitness to practice to ensure patient safety.

In following this Court of Appeal, there is no exception. The GMC does not aim to resolve individual complaints or punish doctors for past mistakes, but rather to take action where needed in order to protect patients or maintain the public’s confidence in the medical profession.

You do know now, though, that any SMP who claims immunity from GMC ethics or guidelines, or claims that you are not his or her patient needs to read the above Court of Appeal judgement.

If you feel a SMP has harmed your health by his behaviour, or by his failure to put your health first, or by making unreasonable demands causing distress, such as insisting you travel a distance to see him or her, provide medical records from birth, or threaten you with reduction on your injury pension if you do not comply – or any other behaviour or omission which adversely impacts on your health, then complain to the GMC.

You are a ‘patient’ in the eyes of the GMC, and you have the right to be protected from doctors who are unfit to practice.

SMPs Have No GMC Immunity
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10 thoughts on “SMPs Have No GMC Immunity

  • 2017-10-09 at 1:50 pm

    Another brilliant blog. I fully agree. The more complaints that go to the GMC about over confident occupational doctors abusing their authority and carrying out medical examinations that they are not qualified to do, the better. Report them and name and shame them all on this site.

    There is no doubt that Wirz and his like minded colleagues have gained their confidence from their ability to pick off isolated and vulnerable pensioners in the past without the scrutiny or challenge from either the Police Federation or NARPO of their illegal review processes. With IODPA well and truly legally involved that confidence must now be rapidly disappearing.

    Having just gone through my third illegal review it still annoys me to read in my forces opening letter in which they justify their review that the illegal process that I have been subjected to had been agreed by both The Police Federation and NARPO.

    Hopefully this will not be the case when The Fed and NARPO finally wake up to this injustice, co operate with IODPA and do something about the review process itself which is rotten from the base up. We can only hope.

  • 2017-10-06 at 8:50 pm

    Would I be forgiven for thinking that this persecution of injured Police Officers has many similarities with the persecution of our troops not so long back by another unscrupulous solicitor by the name of Phil Shiner?

    Police Officers and military personnel are men and women who loyally serve their Country (albeit in different ways) with courage, compassion, honour and integrity to the best of their ability, despite many challenging circumstances. But once they have served their purpose and have become surplus to requirements, in many cases through illness and injury have been disgracefully deserted by their senior officers and organisations. Then left to the mercy of vultures who hound them in many cases to the depths of despair.

    Well I do believe that Mr Shiner did get his comeuppance, so let us all hope that a similar fate awaits other unscrupulous so called professionals who bring such discredit to their professions by this persecution of IODs.

    To those so called professionals if you are reading this may I suggest that you look up the meanings of loyalty, courage, compassion, honour and integrity. Then look at yourself in the mirror, if you can.

    Perhaps you can’t be bothered and those words don’t mean anything to you, but if you had served on the front line then you would understand. But in doing so you could have been injured, now that would never do.

  • 2017-10-05 at 6:29 pm

    Mr Wirz has undoubtedly led the ignorant astray, but let us not dwell on this because it would seem that the worm that is Nicholas…may have turned. He is now postulating that he is fair and transparent, particularly when it comes to defending his own pension pot….read on….
    Read this:
    The latest Unison bulletin
    Mr Wirz is actually passionate about pensions as you can see.
    As far as doctors are concerned, NO DOCTORS who are registered with the GMC are immune to professional regulations and any IOD officer attending either a review with an SMP or a PMAB hearing needs to be mindful of this. If you believe you have been treated in a way that is detrimental to your wellbeing then complain to the GMC, their role is to protect the public.

  • 2017-10-05 at 9:36 am

    This is another brilliant article.

    Following my review by Dr H… from Healthworks, Manchester where he wrote a report that bore little resemblance to what took place or what was said, I complained to the GMC about his conduct. They have taken my complaints seriously and it is now at an investigation stage with an independent medical expert investigating his conduct. I would encourage others to submit complaints to the GMC over their SMP. I would also record the review on your phone. I’m so glad I did as the transcript is clear proof of the failings of this SMP to be truthful and write an accurate report.

  • 2017-10-05 at 6:42 am

    So basically, he only wants rules and regulations to apply when it suits him, sounds like a spoilt brat to me, maybe Naughty Nick should spend some time on ‘the naughty step’.

  • 2017-10-04 at 2:08 pm

    Dear Nicholas Wirz – I am correct in saying that ‘you refer to yourself as a practicing Dr, So I am perplexed as to why you would feel that the GMC codes do not apply to you and other SMPs alike.

    Perhaps we need to speak to the GMC and ask for this matter to be referred to ‘your respondsible officer’ as a training need.

    • 2017-10-04 at 3:14 pm

      In fact my original post should read Dr. Broome. Broome and Wirtzy are okay I g with me head. Perhaps Broomes responsible officer at the GMC should be made aware. Then a complaint to the Law society should deal with Wirtzy as he believes that Northumbria Police do not have to abide by the Equality act 2010. That approach from a practising lawman is perverse.

  • 2017-10-04 at 1:36 pm

    Dear Old NICK is at it again!

    I am sorry to say, but Nick just does NOT know when to stop flogging a dead horse, and the powers that be, are so hopelessly infatuated with his prehistoric warbling, that they cannot see, the man is a serial loser.

    The General Medical Council has no power, responsibility or jurisdiction over a Selected MEDICAL PRACTITIONER.

    NICK is I am sorry to say, making himself look very silly these days, and one wonders for how long those buffoons that attend NWEF, will continue in believing his teachings!

    If the aforesaid SMP was doing a bit of DIY, or mowing his lawn, or doing something else, that could not possibly bring the Profession into disrepute, or calling the office of Medical Practitioner into question, then dear old NICK would be right in his suppositions.

    But, of course we know that carrying out a Medical Examination of an Injured former Police Officer, or injured Serving Police Officer, can only be done by a Medical Practitioner, selected for that very purpose by the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

    So what of the GMC, whose prime responsibilities are:

    (a) to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of the public,
    (b) to promote and maintain public confidence in the medical profession, and
    (c) to promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of that profession.

    Of course the General Medical Council are referring to Medical Practitioners whether they have been selected or not.

    We have already ascertained that the Police Regulations make no mention of anyone being asked to be medically examined by a judge, a car mechanic, or in the case of Staffordshire an Ex Police Officer, for those applying for an IODA, or in receipt of the same having retired.

    They do of course refer to the position of a Medical Practitioner.

    This means of course that they would naturally be very interested to learn of incidents where Medical Practitioners, deny actually being part of the profession, declaring themselves a ” Quasi Judicial Authority ”

    Doesn’t do public confidence in the profession a great deal of good.

    Neither does it do public confidence any good in the Medical Profession when dear OLD NICK’s protege, BROOME together with his other stooge, have a full on shouting and slagging match for nigh on 3 hours about this very topic, which thankfully was recorded, at a review of an injured former Officer suffering from acute PTSD.

    This is precisely the area that the GMC should be involved, for the protection of the public, from this registered Medical Practitioner, who was on this occasion totally out of control.

    It is time to move on from this subject, because the links are getting more and more tenuous by the day, but, NICK is just like one of those annoying children, who is constantly trying to trip the teacher up, by asking the most idiotic and far fetched questions, about something that is in essence very simple.

    In this case, it is the Police Regulations, and how far can he bend the rules, so the likes, of Nightmaregale, Jonners, Broome et al, can ply their trade as hired hatchet men, and slash our pensions to the bone.

    Bad news I’m sorry to say NICK.

    You can’t.

  • 2017-10-04 at 12:57 pm

    Love it …… love it.!!!

  • 2017-10-04 at 12:03 pm

    It appears that Wirz has gone so far down the rabbit hole with his law breaking, that he can’t come back out…time for an example to be made!
    The punishment should now also be greater, because it seems now he is very aware of his own criminality!

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