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22 APR 2010

Dr David Southall wins appeal against GMC

stethoscopeSuspended paediatrician Dr David Southall has won an appeal against the General Medical Council in his first step towards restoring his career.

Three Court of Appeal judges ruled that the GMC's fitness to practice panel should give more detailed reasons for finding him guilty of serious professional misconduct in 2007.

Dr Southall remains struck off the medical register for child protection work following the GMC finding him guilty of serious professional misconduct after it concluded he had abused his position by accusing a mother of drugging and murdering her son.

The consultant was instructed as an expert witness and interviewed the mother in the presence of a social worker. The mother claimed Dr Southall accused her of murdering her son, an allegation strongly denied by the consulted who insisted that he had only raised it as one possible scenario to explain her son's death. The social worker backed the Dr Southall's account but the GMC decided to accept the evidence of the mother.

The Court of Appeal found the GMC panel had not given adequate reasons why it chose to accept the mother's evidence over that of Dr Southall and the social worker. Lord Justice Leveson said: "I would allow this appeal, although I must make it clear that this conclusion is not a condemnation of Mrs M or a vindication for Dr Southall and should not be seen as either. On any showing, the panel will have to consider what penalties should be imposed in relation to the other proved charges."

Many paediatricians are concerned that the GMC is over-reactive to public opinion and the media. They criticise conflicting judicial messages given by the GMC when in the Baby P case they suspended Dr Al Sabah for not being more wary and challenging of parents who might be deceitful, yet they also suspended Dr Southall for doing just that.

In April 2008 doctors attending the annual meeting of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) showed their support for Dr Southall when they passed a motion stating that "the College continues to have grave concerns over the current GMC procedures in child protection."

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