06-03-2013

Deficient Professional Competence Case.

The case concerned a medical practitioner who was brought before the Disciplinary Committee of the GMC and following a fitness to practice hearing, allegations of deficient professional performance were found proven.  There had been assessments undertaken in 2007 and 2009 comprising peer review and tests of competence.  His performance was judged unacceptable in the fields of assessment of patient’s condition, providing or arranging treatment and record keeping.  It is important to note that he also failed competency tests relating to knowledge and simulated surgery elements.  Overall his scores in relation to these assessments were considered disastrous and the assessors were of a unanimous opinion that the standard of his professional performance had been deficient and was not fit to practice at all.  It was suggested that he should cease professional practice.  As a result of these assessments formal disciplinary proceedings were brought against the Doctor which resulted in the hearing before the Fitness to Practice Panel which made a finding of impairment and a sanction of erasure was imposed.  The Doctor then appealed.

The Doctor argued that the sanction was disproportionate and wrong for reasons which included the suggestion that the panel had failed to bear properly in mind various parts of the Indicative Sanctions Guidance and did not give sufficient weight to the positive aspects of his performance when considering the sanction of erasure.  He also  argued that he had been out of practice since July 2006 and had insufficient opportunity to demonstrate remediation of any of the deficiencies in any clinical setting.  They also failed to address the impact that erasure would have on a Doctor at the latter stages of his career (the Doctor was aged 70 at the time of these proceedings).  It was viewed that a proportionate sanction in all the circumstances would have been one of suspension which could then have afforded him the opportunity to address issues of remediation.

The appeal was dismissed and it was found that the decision of the fitness to practice panel had not been wrong.  It was considered that any further opportunity for re-training would not have cured the court deficiencies and defects in competence so as to eliminate any risk to patients.  It was not unreasonable for the panel not to afford the Appellant any further opportunity to address issues after a further period of remediation.  They found that he had been afforded a number of opportunities.  It is also important to note from this case is that it was held that the personal impact of the verdict was ultimately subservient  to the wider interests of the protection of the public from the risk posed by a Doctor failing the relevant competency tests and the reputation of the profession overall.