In the recently decided case of Jooste v GMC, the Administrative Court refused an application for termination of a GMC interim suspension order. The court determined that the panel was entitled to proceed in the absence of the doctor despite the GMC not complying with his request to communicate with him by email. Service of the Notice of Hearing had been in accordance with the statutory scheme which made no provision for service by electronic means.
In October 2009 Dr Jooste appealed against the decision of an Interim Orders Panel (IOP) of the General Medical Council (GMC) who imposed an 18 month suspension order. Dr Jooste contended that the IOP hearing should not have gone ahead and that an interim suspension order should not have been imposed. He also claimed that the subsequent review hearings were invalid.
The GMC wrote to Dr Jooste on 18 September 2009 informing him an IOP would be considering his case on 9 October 2009. The notice was sent to his registered address and was signed for by his son. Dr Jooste had previously requested that all correspondence be sent to him by email. The hearing took place on 9 October 2009 but Dr Jooste did not attend. The hearing was postponed for approximately two hours whilst attempts were made to contact him by telephone. The hearing went ahead and the panel accepted that service had been complied with and the hearing continued. The panel determined that an interim order was required and imposed a suspension order.
Schedule 4 paragraph 8 of the Medical Act 1983 says that a notice may be served by delivering it to the registrant, by leaving it at the registrant’s proper address, by sending it by a registered post service or by sending it by a postal service which provides for the delivery of the notice by post to be recorded. Justice Nicola Davies’ said that Dr Jooste’s request for communication to be sent by email could not override the statutory requirements of service. It was “regrettable” that he did not become aware of the papers in his own home.
Justice Davies agreed with the decision of the IOP that on the evidence before them, notice had been served.
As Justice Davies found the order was appropriate Dr Jooste’s argument that the subsequent IOP reviews were invalid could not succeed. Dr Jooste’s application was refused.