Responding to the ruling Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the General Medical Council said:
We will now study the detailed judgement carefully to see what lessons we can learn from this complex case as we continue to reform our fitness to practise work.
Niall Dickson, the Chief Executive of the GMC
‘Today, Mr Justice Mitting has overturned the decision to find Professor Walker-Smith guilty of serious professional misconduct. We will now study the detailed judgement carefully to see what lessons we can learn from this complex case as we continue to reform our fitness to practise work.
'The immediate effect of this decision is that Professor Walker-Smith is now a fully registered medical practitioner.
‘Today’s ruling does not however re-open the debate about the MMR vaccine and autism. As Mr Justice Mitting observed in his judgment ‘There is now no respectable body of opinion which supports [Dr Wakefield’s] hypothesis, that MMR vaccine and autism/enterocolitis are causally linked.’
‘Nevertheless Mr Justice Mitting has made a number of criticisms about the inadequacy of the reasons given by the panel for the decisions they made on the charges facing Professor Walker-Smith. The panel of medical and non-medical members, having heard all the evidence, were required to set out very clearly why they reached the decisions they did. They failed to do that in relation to key questions, including whether Professor Walker-Smith’s actions were undertaken for the purpose of medical practice or medical research and whether procedures performed on the children were clinically necessary. These were important points that needed to be addressed by the panel in the determination and the failure to do was the major cause of Mr Justice Mitting allowing the appeal today.
‘Over the last two years we have begun to deliver significant reforms to our fitness to practise work, including major changes in the way we adjudicate cases. A key change will be the establishment, in a few months time, of the new Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service which will take over the running and oversight of doctors' fitness to practise hearings.
‘The MPTS will be part of the GMC but it will operate as an autonomous unit separate from our other work. Late last year we announced the appointment of His Honour Judge David Pearl as the Chair of the tribunal. He will be responsible for appointing, training, appraising and mentoring panel members. He will also report directly to Parliament on an annual basis.’