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February’s medical news – dishonesty sanctions & a GPHC fitness to practise review

Each month, the team at Medic Assistance Scheme finds articles and stories from the past few weeks that will help medical practitioners to stay on top of fitness to practise trends in their profession. If you have concerns relating to anything you’ve read on our website, contact us today.

Dishonest GP struck off despite clinical competency

Source: BBC News (18/2/2019)

A Blackpool GP has been struck off the GMC’s register despite being “clinically competent” and posing no harm to patients. Jerome Kerrane was struck off by the MPTS after the panel upheld allegations of faking medical trials and faking patient’s records, showing “persistent, sustained and deliberate dishonesty.” Mr Kerrane’s motivation appears to have been financial, as funds from faked tests and prescriptions were coming into his bank account. Mr Kerrane did not attend the hearing and offered no defence for his actions.

Our take

Mr Kerrane’s case is a reminder that the GMC and MPTS are not only concerned with patient safety, but with professional integrity and the public’s perception of the profession. There was no evidence that Mr Kerrane harmed any of his patients and he was described as “clinically competent,” yet the nature of his offence was enough that the MPTS saw no option but to strike him off the register.

It is telling that dishonesty was at the heart of Mr Kerrane’s case. Deliberate dishonesty is viewed as a serious offence by the MPTS; the fact that no patients were harmed as a result of the former GP’s actions did not change the panel’s view. In serious cases of dishonesty it is important that the doctor is able to show insight, remorse and, if possible, mitigating circumstances if they want to continue to practise. By refusing to engage with the MPTS, Mr Kerrane made his eventual striking off all the more likely.

GPhC to review their fitness to practise process

Source: The Pharmaceutical Journal (15/2/2019)

The GPhC has pledged to review its fitness to practise process between April and June this year. The goal of the review is to assess the impact that the current process has on pharmacists’ mental health and to ensure that the strain of the investigation is more “proportionate,” with an emphasis on restoration. The call for a review as triggered by the Journal, whose Freedom of Information request found evidence of 13 pharmacists reporting additional mental strain during an investigation. Despite the GPhC’s response that this number is less than 1% of total cases between 2016 and 2018, the regulator has committed to reviewing the process in depth later this year.

Our take

Fitness to practise investigations can put a lot of stress on their individual subjects. The uncertainty surrounding the investigation’s outcome, combined with the length of time that a full investigation can take, can lead to a prolonged period of mental strain. Based on our previous experience, a resolution to shorten the length of time it takes for the panel to reach a decision would help to minimise the strain on the pharmacist. A reduction in mental strain should, in theory, make it easier for the professional to engage with the panel during the investigation and return to work in the aftermath if the outcome of the investigation allows them to do so. The MedicAssistanceScheme welcomes the GPhC’s review of the process and awaits their findings with interest.

Dispensing optician suspended after hiding criminal conviction

Source: Optometry Today (5/2/2019)

The GOC has suspended a dispensing optician for nine months after learning that he failed to reveal a criminal conviction for sexual assault. Yorkshire-based Dilesh Gohil was convicted for non-penetrative sexual assault in 2016 and received a nine-month community order at the time. However, the optician did not declare the conviction to the GOC. The regulator determined that Mr Gohil’s fitness to practise was impaired both by the sexual assault conviction and by his failure to report it. They issued a nine-month suspension order, having decided that Mr Gohil had demonstrated enough insight that he would be able to return to work safely later this year.

Our take

Mr Gohil’s case demonstrates that the regulator will not always choose the most severe course of action, even in a case of misconduct and dishonesty. Despite a clear finding of dishonesty, the GOC recognised that Mr Gohil could be safely restored to his position after a nine-month suspension. As mentioned in the article, the insight that Mr Gohil demonstrated during the investigation was a key factor in the GOC’s decision. The importance of insight cannot be understated in the majority of fitness to practise cases, especially when it is clear that misconduct has occurred. A medical law expert will be able to advise a person under investigation on the best way to communicate insight in their case.

Related services

The Medic Assistance Scheme’s lawyers can help medical professionals in many of the areas referred to in these news topics. See below for the services that relate to January’s stories:

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