Ensure you co-operate fully with investigations and medical assessments, and don't fight battles with staff who are trying to help. It's better to engage with the process, move on and keep your views to yourself, while maybe making a few notes for your future memoirs.
Be 100% honest
Whatever you've done (or not done) make sure you are totally honest in any statement you produce, and when answering questions at an FTP committee. Being honest means more than simply answering questions truthfully. It would be dishonest to allow a Committee to gain a false impression of a situation, even if you didn't actually lie to do so.
Your medical school might not allow you to be accompanied by a lawyer
Even though an FTP Committee has the power to affect your human rights by ending your career, it is a curious fact that some medical schools will not allow a student to be accompanied by a lawyer at an FTP Committee.
But the medical school cannot stop you getting help and advice from the MDU, who tend to send along medico-legal advisers.
Know what to expect
It will help to have a basic outline of the FTP committee meeting process. A medical school representative (who is not a member of the committee) will be at the meeting to explain to the committee the school's concerns about you. You are there to respond to those concerns.
The committee is neutral. It is not on anyone's side. The committee must not include anyone with whom you have had significant personal contact (like a tutor, academic adviser, supervisor, or someone who has made decisions about you or complained about you).
The job of the committee, having read the papers and having put questions to the school representative and to you, is to understand the case, to arrive at conclusions about the facts of the case, and to make a decision about the outcome.
Whatever you've done – or not done – make sure you are totally honest.
The next hurdle – GMC provisional registration
The MDU will also be well aware of what the GMC will be looking for at the time of provisional registration application. This can be vital. The numbers are small, but each year the GMC refuses provisional registration to a graduating student who was found to be fit to practise by a university committee, which may have avoided ending a career because of procedural reasons.
The GMC has the luxury of being able to focus purely on the question of whether the individual is fit to practise, without worrying about a university's procedures and regulations. The MDU has a lot of experience dealing with the GMC and their input can be crucial at this stage – not just in anticipating difficulties, but advising on issues like what the GMC is likely to accept as remediation in the event that provisional registration is refused.
The vast majority of students who attend an FTP committee are allowed to continue, possibly after receiving warnings or various other sanctions. Expulsion is rare, and is seen as an absolute last resort, in cases where a student's behaviour has been fundamentally incompatible with continuing with a medical career. The three most serious problems are dishonesty, failing to respond to warnings, and refusing to co-operate with assessment or treatment of a health problem.
Input from a defence organisation can have a huge impact. We repeatedly see students who, for whatever reason, have failed to respond to advice from the medical school but listen to a defence organisation and can then demonstrate that change has occurred. Going to an FTP committee without an appropriate legal representative puts a student at a real disadvantage.
The MDU's medico-legal advisers are there to help you. Use them.
Has the MDU helped you through a difficult time? Why not let others learn from your experience?
If you'd like to share your story, you can get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Tim David
MB, ChB, PhD, MD(Bristol), FRCPCH, FRCP, DCH. Faculty Lead for Student Fitness to Practise, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester
Tim David qualified at the University of Bristol in 1970, and after three years full-time research did a PhD (later also an MD) before entering paediatric training. After working in Bristol, Taunton and Plymouth, he moved up to Manchester where he was later appointed Professor of Child Health and Paediatrics, subsequently becoming the academic lead for student FTP, dealing with all health and social care student FTP cases.
See more by Professor Tim David