Bamgbelu v General Dental Council (GDC) [2013] EWHC 1169 (Admin)

The appellant dentist, B, appealed under s.29 of the Dentist Act 1984 against a decision of a Professional Conduct Committee of the GDC to extend a conditions of practise order for nine months.

In 2009, B had been found to have provided inadequate clinical treatment to a patient, to have unsafe and unhygienic practice conditions at his surgery, and to have acted dishonestly when completing dental paperwork. Following a finding of impaired fitness to practice, B had been subject to conditions of practice for a 12 month period.

The conditions - of which there were originally 13 - were reviewed after the initial period in 2010. A number of modifications were made, including the addition of two further conditions requiring B to be supervised and to attend regular peer group review meetings. On a further review hearing in 2011, the committee found B to have complied with all but the two additional conditions imposed in 2010. It accepted B’s argument that, due to location, compliance had been difficult and gave him credit for having fully complied with the original 13 conditions.

However, owing to the limited supervisor evidence (B had produced only two supervisor reports: one detailing three supervisor visits and the other having no details of visits at all), and the fact that B had only recently attended any peer group meetings, the committee was not satisfied that B had sufficiently addressed the concerns raised at the Fitness to Practise hearing and extended the condition requiring supervision for a further nine months.

B appealed on the basis that: (1) there was room for confusion and misunderstanding as to the proper interpretation of the condition regarding supervision; (2) he had had difficulty in complying with each of the two additional conditions; and (3) there had been breaches of his human rights, Data Protection Act 1984 rights and that, overall, the decision was unreasonable, unjust and wrong.

The court applied the test laid down by Cranston J in Cheatle v General Medical Council [2009] EWHC 645 (Admin): that, in order to allow the appeal, the Court must be satisfied that the decision of the panel was wrong. The court also noted that it would afford appropriate deference to the decision of bodies such as the Professional Conduct Committee of the GDC which had been accorded their decision-making powers as specialists in their profession.

The court confirmed that the onus was on B to demonstrate that he had sufficiently addressed concerns as to his impairment. It agreed that it had been proper for the committee to decide that B had not provided sufficient evidence that he had addressed these concerns and that it was, therefore, appropriate for it to have extended the supervision condition for a further nine months. The court further held that the appellant’s complaint regarding the committee’s treatment of the condition requiring him to attend regular peer group review meetings was ‘misconceived’.  The committee had acknowledged that opportunities for B to attend these meetings were rare and this requirement had been moderated at the review hearing.

Finally, the court also dismissed B’s third argument in relation to human rights/Data Protection Act breaches, as well as his argument as to generalised unfairness. The court held that there had been no procedural or other irregularity in the Fitness to Practise proceedings and the appeal was, accordingly, dismissed.