In the case of West London Mental Health NHS Trust v Chhabra, the Court of Appeal overturned an injunction which had been obtained preventing the trust from pursuing disciplinary allegations against a consultant employee.
It was alleged that Dr Chhabra, a consultant forensic psychiatrist employed at Broadmoor hospital, breached patient confidentiality by reading notes and discussing patients whilst travelling on a train. Pursuant to MHPS, an independent case manager appointed by the trust, determined that the allegations of misconduct in relation to the breach of confidentiality would be referred to a disciplinary panel which could determine that Dr Chhabra would be dismissed.
Dr Chhabra was successful in obtaining an injunction in the High Court preventing the trust from proceeding with the disciplinary process. She argued that the trust had wrongly refused to invoke its "fair blame" procedure to address breaches of confidentiality which were admitted. Further, as other capability concerns had been referred to the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS), it would be inappropriate to convene a conduct hearing whilst this was ongoing.
The Court of Appeal however quashed the injunction. The court held that the doctor could not insist on the issue being dealt with under the "fair blame" procedure because although the latter provided an alternative way of dealing with mistakes that had been openly acknowledged, it had never been intended as a means of weakening accountability for serious offences.
The court found that the decision to convene a disciplinary panel was justified. They emphasised that patients' rights to confidentiality are fundamental in the health service and must be respected by doctors and other staff.
Accordingly, the trust was entitled to regard a breach or breaches of it in a public place by a consultant as a potentially serious offence. The breaches alleged were such that a decision to convene a disciplinary panel was justified and court intervention was not required to prevent it from proceeding.