Chatenya Chauhan v General Medical Council [2010] EWHC 2093 (Admin) (King J)  

The High Court set aside findings of dishonesty and impairment made against a consultant orthopaedic surgeon on the basis that, in making its decision, the Fitness to Practise Panel (the Panel) of the GMC relied on extraneous issues that were not material to the charges facing the surgeon.

The surgeon, Mr C, performed an orthopaedic procedure on the leg of a patient and, against the advice of a consultant plastic surgeon, closed the wound. The leg became infected and was amputated. The GMC Interim Orders Panel restricted Mr C's practice pending a full hearing before the Panel. The Panel ordered the erasure of Mr C's name from the register on the grounds of misconduct.

Mr C appealed on the following grounds:

In relation to findings of fact:

  • that the Panel did not confine itself to the ambit of the charges set out in the Notice of Hearing and that consequently Mr C did not address in his defence issues which were raised against him at the hearing;
  • that the Panel made its decision without fairly weighing the evidence and that the written reasons for its decision overlooked significant areas of evidence;
  • that the Panel was biased to an extent which vitiated its decision.

In relation to impairment:

  • that impairment was found on the basis of facts which had been incorrectly found proved by the Panel.
  • that the Panel unjustifiably failed to consider the detailed findings of an Inquiry Panel set up by Mr C's employer.

In relation to sanction:

  • that it was wholly disproportionate and excessive.

The charges

Two of the charges against Mr C were that he was misleading and dishonest in relation to his initial job application to the NHS Trust and in his subsequent actions.

The court found that the Panel had no proper evidential basis for the finding of dishonesty and had unfairly introduced into their considerations on dishonesty evidence directed at behaviour that was not the subject of any charge. The Panel reformulated the charges and went outside the ambit of the charges and found Mr C guilty of charges of which he had never been charged.

Given the way the charges were originally formulated and the reasons given by the Panel for their decision, the charges could not be allowed to stand. It was also held that even on the basis of the evidence heard which could be considered to be properly directed to the charges as formulated, the proper conclusion should have been one of 'not proved'.

The court rejected the grounds of appeal relating to bias and fairness. Given the court's findings in relation to the Panel's findings of fact, the finding of impairment and the sanction were not allowed to stand. The judge invited further submissions on the course the court should take in relation to impairment and to sanction, but indicated he was inclined to remit the matter to the Panel.