Judgment date: 18 September 2012

High Court terminates interim suspension order on appeal.

Dr Rashid asked the High Court to exercise its power to terminate a decision of the GMC’s Interim Orders Panel (IOP) to impose an interim suspension order on his registration for 18 months on 24 April 2012. The matters considered by the IOP included allegations that he posted a recorded conversation with the head of primary care at the PCT on YouTube without his consent; revealed confidential financial information to local newspapers; inappropriately stored patient notes and medication and was involved in vehicle insurance fraud (for which he was arrested by West Yorkshire Police).

Judge Gosnell noted that the IOP appeared to have made the order on all three grounds under section 41A of the Medical Act 1983 (that the order was necessary for the protection of the public, in the public interest and in Dr Rashid’s own interests). However, it was accepted by both parties on appeal that only the public interest limb could be justified on the facts of the case. Both Counsel also accepted that, whilst several allegations were placed before the IOP, the case turned upon whether the fraud allegation was sufficiently serious to justify suspension.

Judge Gosnell referred to the case of R(Sheikh) v FDC [2007] EWHC 2972 (Admin) where it was established that it is likely to be a relatively rare case where an interim suspension order is made solely on the ground that it is in the public interest.

In examining whether the making of an interim suspension order on the ground that it was in the public interest was objectively justified, Judge Gosnell stated that two elements needed to be considered: the nature of the offence and the cogency of the evidence. He noted that the evidence in this case was sparse. No charges had been brought, no specific allegations had been put to Dr Rashid and the police had not even identified him as the doctor at the centre of their inquiry. This lack of evidence also made it difficult to assess the seriousness of the alleged offence.

Judge Gosnell used his discretion to terminate the suspension on two bases. Firstly, he found that the panel did not give sufficiently cogent reasons for the interim suspension and, secondly, he considered that the allegations, either individually or cumulatively, were not sufficiently serious to justify such an order.

This case confirmed that an interim suspension order should only be made solely on the ground that it is in the public interest in rare cases where the allegations are sufficiently serious. Cogent reasons for such a decision must be given.