The Administrative Court recently heard an appeal in the case of IMAM v General Medical Council. The facts of the case were that Dr Imam (the appellant) appealed the imposition of erasure from the medical register on grounds of misconduct and deficient professional performance.
The court found that whilst the panel should possibly have treated the evidence before it differently, its decision would have been the same even if it had adopted the correct approach and the panel’s decision was upheld.
The appellant’s professional performance was assessed and the unanimous view of the assessors was that his performance was unacceptable in all four categories:
- clinical skills and knowledge;
- ethics and attitude;
- communication; and
The charges before the fitness to practice panel were that the appellant’s fitness to practice was impaired because of his conduct in misleading his new employer by not disclosing his exclusion from his previous employment and because of his deficient professional performance.
The panel took into account the various sanctions and concluded that erasure from the profession would be the only suitable available sanction. The panel thought that the appellant’s actions amounted to a particularly serious departure from good medical practice.
It was argued, on Dr Imam’s behalf, that if the panel had had proper regard to his age and capacity for improvement it could have imposed a range of conditions or suspended him as this would have given him a real possibility of continuing his medical career. Furthermore, it was agreed that the panel focused too much on the negative reports, he had not received all the support that he should have done from his previous employer and the panel was wrong to say that the appellant lacked insight. In addition it was claimed that the panel had treated him unfairly in two respects:
- it had taken account of the delay in reporting the appellant’s previous caution to the GMC, this was unfair because the issue of delay had not been raised; and
- the panel was also unfair to discount the testimonials Dr Imam had presented, because the authors were said to be unaware of the present proceedings.
Two principles from Fatnani v Raschid were restated, firstly that the function of the panel was not to impose a retributive punishment but to preserve the reputation of the profession. Secondly, there was a particular emphasis on the special expertise of the panel in making the judgments required and that the court would accord an appropriate measure of respect to the decision of the panel as to what sanction was required in order to preserve the reputation of the profession and the protection of the public.
In conclusion, although this decision may be seen as unfair to some readers, Sir Thomas Bingham in Bolton v The Law Society reminds us: “the reputation of the profession is more important than the fortunes of any individual member. Membership of a profession brings many benefits, but that is part of the price”.