GDC Fails to Answer About Expert Witnesses and FTP Costs

GDC Fails to Answer About Expert Witnesses and FTP Costs

The GDC’s coyness about its activities is well documented. The Freedom of Information Act was intended to make even the largest organisations answerable to individuals, and has from time to time resulted the public learning about things that various bodies would have preferred to keep under wraps. 

One example is the MP’s expenses scandal of 2009, which might never have broken without the act.

The GDC has a well-established information governance department and amongst other roles they deal with FOI’s sent to the regulator about its performance and activities. They increasingly appear to be engaged in a balancing act between meeting the basic legal requirements of the Freedom of Information act and protecting the reputation of the GDC.

Two recent FOI’s highlight the GDC’s reluctance to engage with concerned registrants, and the quality of its compliance with the Act.

In the first case, the GDC were asked to provide information for the years 2019 to 2022 about the costs of FTP. Given that the GDC recently spent over £270,000 on a single issue non-clinical charge, that when it reached the panel, was dismissed as “No case to answer,” this might be considered of some interest to registrants.

To make the GDCs task easier the information was requested in wide bands and with from / to ranges, specifically:

1) The total spent on FTP case hearings for that year.

2) The mean total cost per hearing for that year.

3) The highest and lowest total individual hearing cost for that year.

4) The number of hearings where the total cost exceeded £100 000 that year

5) The number of hearings where the total cost exceeded £250 000 that year

6) The number of hearings where the total cost exceeded £500 000 that year.

The GDC replied that they had defined the costs as the “total cost, including our legal costs, for fitness to Practice hearings.”

They also confirmed that they held the requested information.

They then refused to provide the information.

This was on the grounds that it would, “exceed the appropriate limit to locate, extract, and/or retrieve the information requested.” They also pointed out that over the four years they had carried out over 3000 hearings.

GDPUK readers, many of whom will have experience of running a business, and the use of reasonably modern book keeping software, may be surprised that much of this information could not be obtained from a few minutes at a keyboard in the GDC’s finance department. Unless their financial section is using quill pens and dusty ledgers it is hard to see how they are unable to answer these questions.

Another FOI asked about the GDC’s use of expert witnesses. Here the information requested, was once again banded for ease of analysis:

It requested, for the years 2019 to 2022:

1) The number of FTP cases where an expert witness was used by the GDC in that year.

2) The number of different expert witnesses that the GDC used that year.

3) The maximum number of cases for which any one expert witness was used in that year.

4) The average (mean) value of payment made to all expert witnesses, per case, in that year.

5) The range of payments made per case that year (highest and lowest)

It received a similar response to the FOI about FTP costs. This time in an attempt at mitigation, the GDC’s chosen useful statistic was that in 2022 it had 140 invoices for expert witnesses.

In both cases the GDC accept that they hold the information. Registrants that are familiar with their website and periodic updates will be well aware that the GDC make a good deal of presenting themselves, with their elaborate corporate plans, as having a professional and business like management culture.

GDC responses like these should be considered alongside their shameful inability to admit the numbers of registrants that have committed suicide during FTP, when there are only 16 cases to check.

This must raise questions about the GDC preferring to cover up its failings, rather than admit, let alone, address them.

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