This case concerned a consultant psychiatrist (the consultant) who applied for an interim injunction to stop his employer, the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, from continuing with disciplinary proceedings.
The consultant was investigated by the trust for allegations that he had acted inappropriately and in breach of duty by arranging the discharge of patients into care arrangements in which he had a financial interest. The case manager (who was also the trust’s medical director) pursuant to Maintaining High Professional Standards in the Modern NHS (MHPS), decided there was a case to answer in respect of allegations of misconduct on the part of the consultant. A disciplinary meeting was convened on the basis that if the misconduct was proved it could be sufficiently serious to warrant summary dismissal.
The consultant argued that the disciplinary investigation and procedure had been pursued and conducted in breach of his contract of employment and in breach of MHPS. He submitted that the trust had not carried out a proper and unbiased investigation. He also said that the appointed case investigator was not suitable as he was not clinically qualified and that those involved, such as the hearing chair and his human resources advisor, lacked impartiality.
The court held that the investigator did not need to be a clinician and the investigator had a wide discretion how to conduct the investigation. In any event, the High Court would not micro manage investigations or disciplinary proceedings. Whilst the court accepted that the human resources advisor perhaps should not have participated due to previous involvement in the matter, the trust persuaded the court that in the circumstances there was no appearance of bias.
However, the important point in this case is that the application for an interim injunction failed in any event on the ground of delay. The consultant only made the application after the disciplinary hearing had commenced, despite knowing the scope of the allegations against him from the beginning. The court therefore held that the delay in making the application made it unjust to grant the interim injunction.