The General Medical Council’s (GMC) appeal against a “lenient” sanction imposed by a MPT is dismissed in case involving doctor accused clinical failings and professional misconduct.
The MPT Hearing was held to consider alleged misconduct by Dr Ahmed in relation to two patients, “Patient A” and “Patient B”. The allegations against Dr Ahmed were that:
- following a consultation with Patient A on 8 February 2015, it is alleged that Dr Ahmed located her account on Facebook and sent a friend request to her, and that this was sexually motivated and in pursuit of a sexual relationship. It is also alleged that during a consultation with Patient A on 25 April 2015, Dr Ahmed failed to carry out an adequate assessment of Patient A, including failing to arrange for an x-ray of Patient A’s hip, administering medication that was neither adequate nor sufficient and failing to keep an adequate record. It is also alleged that Dr Ahmed failed to ensure that Patient A’s father, as her chaperone, had a full view of the consultation.
- following a consultation with Patient B in November 2014 at Salford NHS Trust, Dr Ahmed used Patient B’s medical records to obtain her personal details to send her a friend request on Facebook and WhatsApp messages to her mobile telephone. It is alleged that Dr Ahmed’s messages to Patient B were of a sexual nature, encouraging Patient B to meet with him, and that Dr Ahmed sought to engage in a sexual relationship with Patient B.
The MPT found that some, but not all, of the allegations against Dr Ahmed were proved and that there was misconduct in relation to each patient. It also found that Dr Ahmed’s fitness to practise was impaired as a result of his misconduct. It determined that the appropriate sanction was a suspension of Dr Ahmed’s registration for a period of two months. In reaching its decision on sanction, the MPT took into account, among other things, that Dr Ahmed had been subject to an interim order of suspension for four months. It did not direct a review in Dr Ahmed’s case as it considered that a review would serve no useful purpose. Finally, the MPT determined that it was not necessary to impose an immediate order of suspension.
The GMC appealed under section 40A(1)(a) of the Medical Act 1983 on the ground that the MPT’s determination of a sanction of two months’ suspension is insufficient to protect the public since it: (i) failed to address adequately the Sanctions Guidance on erasure; and
(ii) imposed a sanction that was simply insufficient to reflect the seriousness of Dr Ahmed’s misconduct.
In brief, the GMC sough to persuade the High Court that this was not a case where the MPT enjoyed a significant advantage over the Court in reaching its determination as this appeal does not relate to any clinical matters. It further argued that although the MPT set out parts of the Sanctions Guidance in the Sanction Determination, the list was non-exhaustive regarding factors that, if present, may indicate that erasure is appropriate. Finally, it argued that the MPT failed to explain its conclusion that erasure would be disproportionate by reference to relevant parts of the Sanctions Guidance.
Mr Justice Murray however dismissed the GMC’s appeal saying:
“… the MPT was entitled to conclude, in all the circumstances, including Dr Ahmed’s having already served an interim suspension of four months, and bearing in mind that this was not a case involving any threat to patient health or safety, that a suspension of two months in this case was sufficient to maintain public confidence in the medical profession and to maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of the medical profession.
“It is sufficiently clear from a reading of the Sanction Determination as a whole that the MPT reached the view that ordering a review would serve no useful purpose on the basis of the same factors that led it to conclude that a suspension of only two months would be sufficient in this case.
“Having regard to paragraph 166 of the Sanctions Guidance, it would have been better had the MPT provided a fuller explanation of its decision not to order a review. In my view, however, it was open to the MPT, having regard to all the circumstances, to conclude that a review in this case would serve no useful purpose.”