"Was it something I said?” Whistleblowing during the pandemic
Natasha Forman (née Koshnitsky)
A fitness to practise panel of the General Medical Council (GMC) were entitled to take into account findings it had made at the impairment stage of a fitness to practise hearing when considering the issue of sanction.
The appellant, Dr Uddin, appealed against a decision of a fitness to practise panel of the GMC removing him from the medical register. It was alleged that while employed as a Trainee General Practitioner, Dr Uddin had falsified entries in his electronic assessment portfolio (including forged references) that he did not inform his course directors of the extent of his falsifications and that he had acted dishonestly.
The panel found that Dr Uddin’s actions in falsifying his portfolio were done to achieve the GP qualification, that he had not apologised to the individuals whose references he had forged, that it could not be satisfied that his conduct was unlikely to be repeated and that his actions could have put patients' safety at risk. Dr Uddin’s fitness to practise was deemed impaired by reason of misconduct. When considering sanction, the panel relied on evidence provided in the impairment stage and determined that removal was appropriate.
Dr Uddin appealed on the basis that the Panel was wrong to determine the appropriate sanction based on the findings it made in its determination on impairment, arguing that this approach did not satisfy the three-stage process required by Protocol 1 Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950.
The Court concluded that:
The panel's finding at the impairment and sanction stage was not unfair. Dr Uddin would have given the same evidence in relation to his insight at both stages and the fact that the Panel were unable to conclude that the dishonesty would not be repeated was exactly the kind of matter that the Panel were able to take into account when considering removal.
The Panel had followed the three-stage process required by the European Convention on Human Rights. It went through the available options sequentially on the basis that it was appropriate to impose the most lenient sanction, insofar as that was consistent with the purpose of imposing sanctions.
In the context of reviewing sanctions imposed by a fitness to practise panel, when reviewing the sanctions imposed by a fitness to practise panel, the prima facie position was that the court would defer to the views of the Panel, although the court was not bound by the Panel’s conclusion.
Whilst it is inevitable that three discrete stages are followed in fitness to practise proceedings, the Court have recognised that there are elements of the evidence, for example insight, which clearly are relevant at more than one stage.
Jane David, Solicitor
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