Introduction of the five-year-rule!

Will Powell made this Freedom of Information request to General Medical Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear General Medical Council [“GMC”],

I understand that the five-year-rule was introduced by the GMC on or around the 1st November 2002.

I am formally requesting under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the following information/documentation:

1. Please provide all information/documentation regarding the consideration of the 5-year-rule by the GMC?

2. Please provide all information/documentation that was made public by the GMC in advance of the introduction of the five-year-rule?

3. Please provide all information/documentation that was made public by the GMC at the time of the introduction of the five-year-rule?

4. Please provide all information/documentation that has been made public by the GMC regarding the five-year-rule?

Yours faithfully,

Will Powell

FOI, General Medical Council

Dear Mr Powell

Your information request F12/5106/SL

Thank you for your email of 10 December 2012 asking for information about the GMC’s ‘five-year-rule’.

We will look at your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). We will give you the information as soon as possible, normally within the 20 working day limit set by the FOIA.

Please note that there may be some information which we cannot release to you under the FOIA. If this is the case, we will let you know why and state the relevant exemptions given in the FOIA. We will also give you information about how to appeal our decision.

I have allocated your request to Sarah Leigh. If you have any questions, please contact her on 0161 923 6398 or email [email address].

Kind regards

Gayle Impey

Dr Gayle Impey
Information Access Team Administrator
General Medical Council
3 Hardman Street, Manchester M3 3AW
[email address]
0161 923 6286

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Sarah Leigh (0161 923 6398), General Medical Council

Our ref: F12/5106/SL

Dear Mr Powell

I am currently considering your request for information about the introduction of the five-year rule.

I'm afraid that I will not be able to respond to your request by tomorrow's deadline (10 January 2012). This is due to the difficulties I have had in trying to locate the material requested. Given that material on the introduction of the five-year rule will date back to 2001/2002, I have needed to conduct a wide ranging search of our paper archives as well as our electronic document management system. I am still currently searching for documentation.

I'm very sorry for the delay and any inconvenience this causes. Please be assured that I will provide a full response as soon as I can.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Leigh
Information Access Officer
[email address]
0161 923 6398

General Medical Council
3 Hardman Street
Manchester
M3 3AW

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Dear Sarah Leigh (0161 923 6398),

Thank you for informing me that you will not be able to provide the requested information, within the time limit of the FOI Act, because you are having difficulty locating the information.

I look forward to receiving the requested information at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Will Powell

Sarah Leigh (0161 923 6398), General Medical Council

3 Attachments

Our ref: F12/5106/SL

Dear Mr Powell

I am writing to respond to your request made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I sincerely apologise for the delay in sending this response. As mentioned previously, this has been due to difficulties in locating the relevant documentation.

You are correct in stating that the five-year-rule was introduced on 1 November 2002. This formed part of a package of changes to the Fitness to Practise (FtP) rules and procedures.

I have undertaken a thorough search of all our electronic and hard copy records and have found a small amount of documentation relating to the introduction of the five-year rule. The lack of relevant material is mainly due to the fact that the introduction occurred well over 10 years ago.

I have found information to suggest that the idea of having a time limit for complaints was initially proposed in August 2001. I located a summary report of an internal conference with Counsel, held in August 2001, where the five-year rule appears to have been discussed for the first time. The purpose of the conference was to consider the review of FtP procedures and the proposed changes. I have not attached the actual document as I believe this is exempt from disclosure. The exemption which I believe applies is:

Section 42 - Legal Professional Privilege - This exemption applies to information which attracts Legal Professional Privilege. The exemption is subject to a public interest test but in this instance we believe that the public interest lies in maintaining the exemption rather than disclosing the information.

The first Council meeting where the five-year rule was discussed was in November 2001. Please see the relevant Council paper and minutes of the meeting at the links below. As you will see, the Fitness to Practise Policy Committee (FPPC) had responsibility for the development and implementation of the review.

Please note that all Council papers dating back to 1999 are now available on our website.

http://www.gmc-uk.org/10b_Review_of_FTP_... (see page 11)

http://www.gmc-uk.org/2_Minutes_67_Novem... (see page 4)

Following the decisions of Council, a consultation was undertaken in July 2002 where the five-year rule was one of the suggested changes. I have not been able to locate the actual consultation paper, but I have found a draft version from June 2002. Please find the relevant pages of the draft paper attached. Although I could not find the responses received from the bodies consulted, a brief summary of the results is provided in a later Council paper from September 2002 (see link below). The five-year rule was approved at this Council meeting and implemented from the beginning of November 2002.

http://www.gmc-uk.org/3e_FTP_Rules.pdf_2... (see bottom of page 5)

You also asked about how the GMC publicised the introduction of the five-year rule. Again, we have conducted a thorough search of our archives but have not been able to find any relevant material. I am therefore not able to confirm the extent to which the GMC publicised details about the five-year rule before and at the time of its introduction.

Your final question asks for all information/documentation that has been made public by the GMC regarding the five-year-rule. In terms of what is currently publically available, we do hold some relevant guidance which may be of interest. The five-year rule is mentioned within the attached FtP procedures guidance provided to complainants (see page 4). I have also attached the 'Aide Memoire' which the Assistant Registrar will consult when making a decision on applying the five-year rule. There is also mention of the five-year rule in other Council papers, in particular one from 2009 following a further consultation on the FtP rules:

http://www.gmc-uk.org/about/council/2009... (see penultimate item)

However, I believe conducting a search trying to identify all information which has been made public about the five-year rule would exceed the cost limit imposed by the FOIA. Section 12 of the FOIA allows a public authority not to undertake a search for the information requested where they estimate that the cost of complying with the request for information would exceed the ‘appropriate limit’. The Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004 set the ‘appropriate limit’ at £450 for public authorities such as the GMC. This is equivalent to two and a half days work.

To consider this part of your request, we would need to search within all our electronic and hard copy records covering the last 12 years. Public information on the five-year rule is likely to be held within hearing minutes, press releases, press enquiries, FOI requests and other areas of the organisation. To locate, retrieve and review all relevant material would take significantly longer than two and half days. I therefore believe this part of your request to be exempt in accordance with Section 12 of the FOIA.

I hope you find this information useful. I should inform you that you do have the right of appeal against my refusal to supply information via the FOIA route. If you wish to appeal please set out your grounds in writing and send to Julian Graves, Information Access Manager, at [email address]. You also have the right of appeal to the Information Commissioner, the independent regulator of the FOIA. If appropriate, Mr Graves will provide the relevant contact details.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Leigh
Information Access Officer
[email address]
0161 923 6398

General Medical Council
3 Hardman Street
Manchester
M3 3AW

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