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Lord Harmsworth: I support the government amendment. My amendment, Amendment No. 5, was designed to correct a shortcoming in the wording of the original Clause 2. Clause 2 is permissive. It permits the general council to make regulations authorising the registrar to erase the name of a medical practitioner

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from the register in certain circumstances. My difficulty is that subsection (2) is also permissive. It permits the regulations to provide for the restoration to the register of a name. In being permissive, it places no compunction whatsoever on the general council to take any action. The government amendment completely resolves the problem. Under the old wording, the general council could have got away with doing only half the job—although it has no intention of doing anything but the whole job, I am assured. I thank the Minister for her help in this matter, and her officials with whom I have been in correspondence.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: Amendment No. 7, which is grouped with Amendment No. 4, stands in my name and seeks to establish that a doctor's retraining and supervision will be provided for in regulations. I have already referred to the need for that and shall wait to see what happens. I do not intend to move my amendment—but we have not yet reached it.

Baroness Cumberlege: Indeed, Amendment No. 7 comes later. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken for their support for Amendment No. 4.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Baroness Cumberlege moved Amendment No. 6:


Page 3, line 34, leave out ("subsection (1)") and insert ("paragraph (a)").

The noble Baroness said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Baroness Cumberlege moved Amendment No. 8:


After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

Preliminary proceedings: interim orders

(" .—(1) Section 42 (preliminary proceedings as to professional misconduct and unfitness to practise) shall be amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (3), in paragraph (c) for the word "two" there shall be substituted the word "six".
(3) In subsection (4), for the words "No order for interim suspension or for interim conditional registration shall be made by the Preliminary Proceedings Committee" there shall be substituted the words "No order under subsection (3) (b) or (c) above or (6A) (b) to (d) below shall be made by any Committee".
(4) In subsection (5), for the words "If the Committee decide" there shall be substituted the words "If the Preliminary Proceedings Committee decide".
(5) In subsection (6), for the word "two" there shall be substituted the word "six".
(6) After subsection (6) there shall be inserted—
"(6A) Where an order for interim suspension or for interim conditional registration has been made in relation to any person under any provision of this section (including this subsection) the Preliminary Proceedings Committee, the Professional Conduct Committee or the Health Committee may, subject to subsection (4) above—
(a) revoke the order or revoke any condition imposed by the order;
(b) vary any condition imposed by the order;
(c) if satisfied that to do so is necessary for the protection of members of the public, make an order for interim suspension; or

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(d) if satisfied that to do so is necessary for the protection of members of the public or is in the interests of the person concerned, make an order that his registration shall be conditional on his compliance, during such period as is specified in the order, with such requirements so specified as the Committee think fit to impose for the protection of members of the public or in his interests.
(6B) An order under subsection (6A) (c) or (d) above—
(a) shall take effect as from a date not later than the date on which the interim suspension or interim conditional registration would otherwise come to an end; and
(b) shall specify a period not exceeding three months.
(6C) If an order is made under subsection (6A) (a) to (d) above the Registrar shall forthwith serve a notification of the order on the person to whose registration it relates.
(6D) Where an order has been made under any provision of this section, the court (within the meaning of section 38 above) may—
(a) in the case of an order for interim suspension, terminate the suspension,
(b) in the case of an order for conditional registration, revoke or vary any condition imposed by the order,
(c) in either case, substitute for the period specified in the order some other period which could have been specified in the order when it was made;
and the decision of the court on any application under this subsection shall be final.".
(7) Subsection (7) shall cease to have effect.").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 8. In moving this amendment I will also speak to amendments consequential to this—that is, Amendments Nos. 9 to 13 and 18 to 26 inclusive.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health gave a commitment in another place that the Government would bring forward this amendment. It will give the General Medical Council's preliminary proceedings committee the power to impose interim suspension or interim conditions on a doctor for a period of up to six months pending the full hearing of his case by the health or professional conduct committee. These interim orders can be extended by those committees or the preliminary proceedings committee for further periods of up to three months. The preliminary proceedings committee's existing powers are currently limited to one, non-renewable period of two months. This has proved insufficient to cope with protracted hearings or adjournments.

The GMC issued a consultation document in February 1994 which proposed that the period of interim suspension or conditions should be extended from two to six months and that further periods should be imposed if necessary. The proposal received broad support from the profession and from patient groups.

While this power is not expected to be often used, it is needed in order to protect the interests of patients. However, the doctor also has rights. It seems fair that he should be given the opportunity to be heard by the health, professional conduct or preliminary proceedings committees at any time when they are considering imposing interim conditions or suspensions. A doctor would also be able to appeal to the High Court against interim suspension or imposition of interim conditions, or against their renewal.

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Interim conditions or suspension will be extended when a hearing is pending. However, because at this point no case will have been proved this should be for only periods of three months at a time. This also ensures that the GMC is required to review the case regularly.

An unfortunate but unavoidable effect of this amendment is that it has spawned a number of minor consequential and technical amendments—14 in all. These are required to reflect the change in structure of Section 42 (as amended) and maintain the current position regarding such matters as the effect of interim suspension on employment.

Lord Walton of Detchant: I rise to support the amendment most warmly. When a doctor is reported to the General Medical Council as having been convicted of a criminal offence, when a report comes to the council suggesting or raising as an issue that the doctor may have been guilty of serious professional misconduct or that his or her health may be seriously impaired, and in the future when the Bill becomes law, as we all trust that it will, when a doctor is reported as perhaps performing below the standard that is required and defined in the Bill, after being considered by a preliminary screener, those reports go to the preliminary proceedings committee.

In the past there have been cases where the preliminary proceedings committee has felt that the offence of which the doctor was convicted or the offence of which the doctor stood charged in, for example, a disciplinary case was so serious that in order to protect the public it was essential that an order of suspension of that doctor's registration should be made immediately effective. However, under the present law, that period of two months has proved to be quite insufficient because collecting the evidence in order to mount a proper case to be heard by the professional conduct or health committees or perhaps in the future by the professional performance committee is a complicated matter. Therefore, extending the period from two to six months is important in the interests of the protection of the public. I warmly support the amendment and the consequential amendments which flow from it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 [Supplementary and consequential amendments]:

Baroness Cumberlege moved Amendment No. 9:


Page 3, line 38, leave out ("and 2") and insert ("to (Preliminary proceedings: interim orders)").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 9, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 10 to 13. When considering the previous amendment, I addressed the issue of extending the powers of interim suspension and the making of interim orders. Amendments Nos. 9 to 13 make minor consequential changes and flow from Amendment No. 8. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.

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Schedule [Supplementary and Consequential Amendments]:


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