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GMC v Dr SJB

Fitness to Practise Committee Hearing of the 10 March 2011

A decision of the Fitness to Practise Panel of the General Medical Council dated 10 March 2011.

The Fitness to Practise Panel considered an allegation regarding the fact that the doctor had received a simple caution for the offence of possession of controlled drugs (cocaine) on 23 September 2009. This allegation was admitted and found approved.

The Panel went on to consider whether the doctor’s fitness to practise was impaired. Following being arrested on 19 July 2009 after having been searched by police outside licensed premises and 0.84 grams of cocaine being found in his trouser pocket, the doctor was interviewed by the police. He informed them that he was a recreational user of drugs and had only recently started using the drug. He then received a caution on 23 September 2009.

The doctor told the Panel that he had reflected on his actions and had tried to find ways of making amends. He said that he did not want to put himself in a position where he would lose the respect of his colleagues or peers. As a result of this, he had withdrawn an application for a senior clinical position when he became aware of the fitness to practise hearing in order to protect the reputation of the Trust.

The GMC made no submissions on whether the doctor’s fitness to practise was impaired.

The Panel were told that testimonials received on behalf of the doctor demonstrated how high a regard he was held in by his colleagues. In addition there was no question as to his clinical capabilities.

The doctor had undergone urine sample tests with his GP and all were found to be clear of narcotics. The doctor had moved on from the circle of friends he had kept. In addition he now participated in drug awareness education for young people. It was submitted on behalf of the doctor that there was a negligible risk of repetition in the future and that he was currently fit to practise.

The Panel considered the evidence and case law. In particular, it considered the case of Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581 (Admin):

“There must always be situations in which a Panel can properly conclude that the act of misconduct was an isolated error on the part of a medical practitioner and that the chance of it being repeated in the future is so remote that his fitness to practise has not been impaired”.

In addition, the Panel considered the case of Zygmunt v GMC [2008] EWHC 2643 (Admin):

“The doctor’s current fitness to practise must be gauged partly by his/her past conduct or performance. It must also be judged by reference to how he/she is likely to behave or perform in the future”.

When considering impairment, the Panel considered all the evidence including the fact that there were no previous concerns regarding the doctor, the amount of cocaine found was of a small quantity, there was no evidence of dependence or long term use and there was no evidence that patients were put at risk. In addition the doctor’s GP had provided a report stating that she did not think that the doctor would repeat his actions and that he did not put patients at risk.

The Panel then concluded that the risk of the doctor repeating the offence was remote.

The Panel found that the doctor’s fitness to practise was not impaired and invited the GMC to make submissions on whether they were asking for the Panel to consider a warning. Counsel for the GMC did not make any submissions. The Panel made the decision that a warning was appropriate in these circumstances.

Find out more about the GMC’s fitness to practise process.