This guidance was given in the case of Dr E. Emmanuel v South Gloucestershire PCT and the FHSAA [2009] EWHC 3260 which can be accessed here. The case concerned an alleged inappropriate relationship with a patient/former patient. The Family Health Services Appeals Authority (FHSAA) heard from various witnesses including the patient’s current GP and Dr Emmanuel. The patient did not give oral evidence herself but the panel considered typed notes of face to face and telephone interviews between the patient and PCT head of governance. The FHSAA decided that it preferred the evidence of the patient to that of the doctor.

The doctor appealed to the High Court. The judge accepted that there will be cases where a panel does not hear live evidence from a witness on behalf of the PCT often because that witness is vulnerable. However the judge found that the FHSAA panel had failed to assess in its determination the patient’s vulnerability or her reluctance to give evidence and failed to state what weight they gave to this and this amounted to an error of law.

The judge also made observations on the length of the day’s hearing which had continued until 1945 hours. The judge commented that such a long day should be avoided if at all possible. Good practice demands that tribunals should not place themselves in a situation where their sitting hours become so unreasonable that it can no longer be stated with any certainty that the conduct of the proceedings was fair.