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Baroness Cumberlege moved Amendments Nos. 10 to 13:

Page 5, line 17, at end insert:
(" . In section 36(2) (professional misconduct and criminal offences)—
(a) for the word "42(3) (c)" there shall be substituted the word "42"; and
(b) after the words "the Preliminary Proceedings Committee" there shall be inserted the words "or the Professional Conduct Committee".").
Page 5, line 19, at end insert:
("( ) In subsection (2)—
(a) for the word "42(3) (c)" there shall be substituted the word "42"; and
(b) after the words "the Preliminary Proceedings Committee" there shall be inserted the words "or the Health Committee".").
Page 6, line 48, leave out ("and").
Page 7, line 2, at end insert ("; and
(c) for the words "of the Preliminary Proceedings Committee under section 42(3) (b)" there shall be substituted the words "under section 42".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Cumberlege moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 7, line 2, at end insert:
(" . In section 53(2) (proof of certain instruments), after the words "the Professional Conduct Committee" there shall be inserted the words ", the Committee on Professional Performance".").

The noble Baroness said: This is a consequential amendment which needs to be made for completeness. It ensures that copies of orders made by the Committee on Professional Performance under Section 38 of the Act, dealing with immediate suspension, can be admissible as evidence. That is already the case for immediate suspension orders of the Professional Conduct Committee and the Health Committee. The purpose of that is to enable a copy of the committee's order, rather than the original document, to be submitted in evidence in an appeal to the court. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Jay of Paddington moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 8, line 23, after ("relate") insert ("or any person making a complaint to which the proceedings relate").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment seeks, like Amendment No. 3, to remove an anomaly from the Bill so that everyone involved in the proposed proceedings is treated equally. The amendment makes it possible for persons making a complaint to request that GMC proceedings be held in public—a privilege at the moment, as the schedule stands, given only to the person,

that is, to the doctor concerned.

The spirit of the Bill is to create a greater openness in professional self-regulation and to increase patient confidence in the system. Many of the innovations achieve both those aims. Therefore it seems rather strange that when it comes to the proceedings of the

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Committee on Professional Performance itself the balance seems to swing back again to favour the professionals as against the complainants.

Several organisations, including notably the Patients Association, have expressed concerns that even in that altered state the mechanics of investigations into professional performance will seem daunting to many potential complainants. The Patients Association has, like us all, welcomed the Bill in principle, but the organisation still feels that if people with a legitimate complaint against their doctor think that the scales are tipped against them within the GMC, they may be deterred from acting.

Of course I acknowledge that there will be many complainants who, like many of the doctors concerned, may well prefer the anonymity of a private hearing, but there are others who will expect their day in court to be public, and they should at least be given that choice. After all, the GMC and the Government clearly acknowledge that in certain circumstances it may be preferable to have an open hearing because the Bill allows for a doctor to opt for that procedure. That makes the new procedures different from health investigations, which, as I understand it, are always held in camera, and professional misconduct hearings, which are, by contrast, always held in public.

There is therefore presumably no objection in principle to the arrangement so that public hearings can be held. That makes the anomaly in the schedule even more objectionable, and it may not be surprising that the conspiracy theorists, or those who are merely alarmed by the prospect of taking on the medical establishment, see it as a last-ditch attempt to give a doctor who is being investigated a potentially unfair advantage over a complainant.

The Government and the GMC have given assurances that proceedings will be monitored and may be revised again after the new system has been operating for some time. The Minister repeated those assurances on Second Reading and stated that there was a commitment to review the operations of the Committee on Professional Performance three years after the first hearing. On that occasion the noble Baroness said (Hansard, col. 895.):

    "I am sure that the issue will be addressed again".

Surely it is more sensible to address the issue again today and before the Bill leaves this place and remove the anomaly in the Bill by accepting this simple amendment which must improve general confidence in the equity of the new arrangements. I beg to move.

12.15 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: I support the amendment. Where there is choice there is generally much more satisfaction.

Lord Walton of Detchant: I can fully understand the reasons underlying the proposal in the amendment. The Professional Conduct Committee of the GMC invariably meets in public except that it may go into camera where there are circumstances such as the protection of the rights and confidentiality of a minor who may be giving evidence when the Committee may decide to protect that individual by going into camera. The Health Committee

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invariably meets in camera, if only because it is important to recognise that its procedures are intended to be rehabilitative, compassionate and, in the first instance, to prevent a doctor who may be so sick as to be a danger to the public from practising except under rigid conditions. Nevertheless, they are intended to help that doctor to recover from his or her illness.

That was an issue which gave the GMC and its advisers considerable difficulty before they decided to recommend to the Government that these proceedings should be held in private, save when the doctor requested that they be held in public. I can wholly understand the reasons why it may be felt that the interests of the patient who is the complainant may require them to be held in public. I am ambivalent about this position but, in general, feel that, after all the consideration that has been given to these procedures which are intended to be rehabilitative and not punitive, it would be better to leave the position as it stands in the Bill.

Baroness Cumberlege: The matter of whether a complainant in a case should be able to ask for hearings of the Committee on Professional Performance to be in public was touched upon as the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, said, on Second Reading. I made it clear then that our intention was that hearings of the Committee on Professional Performance will be held in private unless the doctor wishes otherwise. That intention remains. When the new procedures have been bedded in, the GMC will be better placed to see whether the difficulties of public hearings can be overcome.

The reason we have given the doctor a right to ask for a public hearing and not the complainant is that the case is about whether the doctor should continue in practice. It is his livelihood which is at stake. Under the European Convention on Human Rights the doctor is entitled to a fair and public hearing. Hence, when hearings are to be normally held in private that right must be reserved.

A complainant in a performance case will be party to any hearings of the Committee on Professional Performance on the case in question. The complainant will also be entitled to be heard by the committee and to be legally represented. Some people have compared the performance procedures with the conduct procedures, where hearings are held in public. Indeed, that has been done this morning. The two procedures are very different. The conduct proceedings address specific wilful acts and omissions by doctors and the Professional Conduct Committee operates very much like a court. Hearings of the Committee on Professional Performance will review the report of the assessment panel on the doctor's performance as a whole. It will not make a finding on any single complaint. The finding will relate to the doctor's standard of professional performance generally.

The GMC consulted specifically on the merits of public and private hearings. The result was generally in favour of private hearings. In Committee in the other place a clear commitment was given that the GMC would review the operation of the Committee on Professional Performance three years after the first

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hearing. I repeated that commitment, as the noble Baroness said, on Second Reading and make that commitment again today.

I hope that with those comments the noble Baroness will be reassured and will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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