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28 FEB 2013

Patel v General Medical Council [2012] EWHC 3688 (Admin); (2013) PLLR 014

Doctors - fitness to practise - General Medical Council - Interim Orders Panel - criminal charges - conspiracy to defraud - abuse of a position of power -  section 41A(1) Medical Act 1983 - whether suspension necessary for the protection of the public or otherwise in the public interest - proportionality of suspension.

The Interim Orders Panel of the General Medical Council had been wrong to suspend a GP who had been charged with conspiracy to defraud and abuse of a position in relation to work undertaken outside his role as a medical practitioner, where such a suspension was not necessary for the protection of the public or in the public interest more generally.

20 December 2012

Administrative Court

Eady J

(1)        The applicant (P) GP was a school governor and faced charges of conspiracy to defraud and committing fraud by abuse of position in relation to a system for making payments to teachers. The Interim Orders Panel (IOP) of the General Medical Council imposed an interim suspension of 18 months under section 41A of the Medicine Act 1983 (the 1983 Act), on the basis that there may have been impairment of P's fitness to practise which could adversely affect the public interest. The public interest was said to include public confidence in the profession and the declaring and holding of proper standards of conduct.

(2)        P sought to have the suspension terminated under section 41A(1) of the 1983 Act, on the basis that it was not necessary, proportionate or the interests of public safety.

(3)        Eady J held (i) that the test to be applied was to be found in paragraph 33 of the Guidance for Interim Order Panels. This required the decision-maker to consider what the reasonable onlooker armed with full knowledge of the relevant facts would think of P continuing to practise. [28]. (ii) That the nature of the wrongdoing, rather than the sum involved or the duration, was crucial. Relevant facts included P's otherwise unblemished record; the presumption of innocence; that it was not alleged that P had made any personal gain; that the charges arose in relation to a scheme in which P was authorised to make payments and that the nature of the scheme would have to be analysed to assess whether P was guilty. No reasonable onlooker would be offended or surprised that P had been able to continue to practise whilst awaiting trial. There was no evidence of a threat to the welfare of P's patients or public confidence in the medical profession. The public interest did not require P to be suspended [27] - [30].

Suspension terminated.

Key paragraphs

[1] - [4] - The nature of the application

[5] - [7] - The legal framework

[8] - [11] - The conclusions of the Panel

[12] - [14] - Submissions made on behalf of the applicant

[15] - [26] - Submissions made on behalf of the GMC

[27] - [30] - Discussions and conclusions. 

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