In M v GMC, Dr Martin appealed against the findings of a Fitness to Practise Panel (FTPP) of the GMC, which erased him for impaired fitness to practise by reason of misconduct. The Administrative Court dismissed his appeal, although it declared that two sentences should be removed from the FTPP’s determination as it had been wrong in calling into question his commitment to good clinical care: this comment related to an allegation that had been withdrawn before the start of the hearing.
Dr Martin was found by the FTPP to have engaged in a sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient, prescribing for her without proper assessment or accurate recording in the notes, and on one occasion, dishonestly in the names of another doctor and another patient, certifying her prescription as exempt from charges.
Dr Martin admitted all charges save for dishonesty in prescribing in another doctor’s name, saying the computer’s default system issued the prescription in the name of the patient’s doctor.
He appealed the FTPP decisions, asserting that
- in relation to the finding of dishonesty, the panel should have accepted his “no case to answer” argument;
- it should not have found lack of clinical care in connection to the withdrawn allegation;
- it was wrong to find his fitness to practise currently impaired; and
- erasure was disproportionate.
All grounds were rejected save that as the allegation relating to a delay in providing care to a terminally ill patient had been withdrawn and thus not fully addressed in evidence by either party, the GMC’s counsel should have reminded the FTPP that there was no head of charge in relation to this issue and that they should treat it as part of the factual background, not an allegation of misconduct. In the event, the FTPP appeared to treat it as a further head of misconduct, it was suggested, which may have influenced its view on impairment and sanction. Whilst the FTPP was entitled to take into account all evidence, this would have been potentially unfair to Dr Martin. Two sentences relating to that issue were declared to be wrongly included in the determination of the FTPP and it was further declared that they should be deleted.
The lengthy judgment also emphasised that it will afford deference to the regulatory panel whose decision is appealed for two reasons:
- the members of the panel are specialists whose understanding of what the profession expects of its members deserves respect; and
- the members have seen and heard the witnesses on both sides, which the Appeal Court usually has not.
It was submitted for Dr Martin firstly, that if the panel had two lay members out of three, the degree of deference would be less as they were not medical specialists and, secondly, that less deference should be paid because the medical member was not a GP. Both contentions were rejected.
Dr Martin did not seek for the matter to be remitted to the FTPP and the judge declared that the two sentences in the determination that made critical reference to the delay in attending the patient be removed from the declaration. Save for that, the appeal was dismissed