An independent medical tribunal that is expected to handle some 340 doctors’ fitness-to-practise hearings a year launches today.

The new Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), which is operate separately from the General Medical Council (GMC), is to adjudicate on complaints made against any of the UK’s 240,000 doctors and impose sanctions where appropriate. The GMC is to retain its role as investigator and prosecutor.

MPTS chair his honour judge David Pearl said: 'It is important that the public and the profession see our hearings as impartial, fair and transparent. Previously some of the same GMC staff could have been involved in both the investigation and the adjudication. Now there is total separation.’

Pearl will be responsible for appointing, training, appraising and mentoring 292 panel members, of whom 59 sit as panel chairs. His staff also includes legal advisors.

There were some 340 fitness-to-practise hearings last year, each typically lasting seven days. There were also several hundred interim order hearings, where temporary restrictions on a doctor’s practice were imposed while investigations continued.

The MPTS arises from a 2010 government consultation recommending a greater separation between the GMC and the adjudication of cases.

Pearl became a circuit judge in 1994, since when he has been appointed president of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, president of the Care Standards Tribunal, director of studies at the Judicial Studies Board and a commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission.