This appeal to the High Court will use one case to campaign for the following improvements for doctors under investigation:
In all cases the start of the tribunal should be within 12 months. This would allow all cases to finish within 18 months. This case, lasting 3 years and 3 months has meant the financial cost to me has been at least £120,000 in lost wages, more if higher salary posts are considered. I was made aware more than once that I would have been given a well-paid job had it not been for the fact that I was subject to a GMC investigation at that time. In addition I have had legal costs running into many thousands of pounds. The long duration is also harmful to the accuser. They have to continue to lie to the GMC and their family. If it is possible to sue Patient A, the long duration of this case will have added to the amount of compensation expected from her and her family. There is no doubt that the harm to doctors and family increases with the length of the case. It is also worth point out that extended investigations are more likely to keep vital members of the medical profession away from work, further depleting the workforce at a time of harmful vacancies.
The GMC investigation should aim for truth, not persecution of the medical profession. The GMC must take steps when first aware of a complaint to hear both sides of the story. The Matron was contacted in January 2016, more than 2 years after the false allegations were made. She was the first independent witnessto be contacted, all others were approached even later. By the time the patient witnesses were contacted, one had died and the other had endured more than one extended stay on ITU resulting in poor memory such that her testimony had to be ignored. The GMC never managed to locate one nurse.
The investigationshould test the validity of the accuser. The current process has been described by one doctor as a ‘one-sided battle’. Press coverage is written in such a way as to suggest that all the doctor’s actions, as described by the accuser, were actually true. The MPTS uses this unsavoury tactic in order to prise out similar accusations from the public. Yet no attempt, unlike in criminal proceedings, was made to establish whether there was a record of previous lying made by Patient A. Has she made previous false allegations? Does she have a Police Record? Does she have a mental health record which would suggest that her testimony may not be reliable?
Doctors should be given at least two days to respond to the tribunal’s initial decisions. The Determination of Facts – the first document which states which of the GMC accusations have been proved – was emailed to me at 1.29pm one day in February. The Tribunals Co-ordinator gave me until 3.10pm to provide my response. This was a response to a 41-page document which was extremely difficult to read and almost impossible to understand with just one reading. Reading it took longer than the 101 minutes I was given, so writing a response was therefore physically impossible. In fact, I did not receive the email and attachment until 2.30pm, giving me only 40 minutes. Admitting guilt and apologising is an important part of the current GMC process. However I was not given sufficient time to find out which charges I had been found guilty of. In the case report this was described as a lack of insight on my part and me expressing only partial remorseand regret. In the same email I was given until 9.15am the next morning to make a submission in relation to health. However the Determination gave no indication that the Tribunal were considering that health would be used as grounds to declare me unfit to practise. It is almost impossible to defend oneself against decisions you are not aware of.
GMC and MPTS should be able to correct mistakes in the tribunal’s proceedings and findings. All documents relating to this case now mistakenly say that I carried out a pelvic examination of Patient A despite the tribunal agreeing that she never removed her trousers. In theory this error has not been held against me and it is not mentioned as misconduct. It does make the MPTS look amateurish. I pointed out this error in two emails to them. A Tribunals Co-ordinator replied with ‘The GMC and MPTS are unable to alter the content of any determination after a hearing has concluded.’
When the tribunal decisions are contested there should be a simpler, quicker and more affordable appeal process. There is only one next step available to me. Even to lodge an appeal will take thousands of pounds. Had I been able to afford it, a barrister would have been a better method. I have had to rely on a solicitor. And this is only possible with the use of crowdfunding. The appeal has to be lodged at the High Court within 28 days which is barely enough to find and brief a suitable solicitor and write the appeal document. The appeal is not likely to be heard for six months. Only after resolution of the High Court Appeal will I be able to launch a civil case for damages against Patient A. There is no system to do this and MDU, my medical defence union, does have a policy to support their members who need to claim compensation from those whose lies caused immense damage. The tribunal used incorrect information and applied it incorrectly. This needs to be addressed.
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