In late 2017, newly qualified Dr S had been out with a group of friends at the races to celebrate a friend’s birthday and his own graduation. This led to the group going to a nightclub and to Dr S and a friend later being asked to leave. In the time that Dr S was being escorted out of the premises, he punched a member of the nightclub stuff. Dr S was then arrested and accepted a police caution for assault.

The incident then led to Dr S being investigated by the GMC and subsequently a fitness to practise hearing at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), a mere 6 weeks after starting his first job in A&E.

MPTS decision

After accepting his actions, Dr S explained that he deeply regretted the incident and had learnt from the mistake that he had made. He also provided testimonial evidence from colleagues in order to support his case.

Dr S received a warning, as the Tribunal determined that ‘[his] conduct does not meet the standards required of a doctor. It risks bringing the profession into disrepute and it must not be repeated’.

Although the warning will not restrict Dr S’ right to practice, this will remain on the online register for two years alongside a description of the issue. The warning also refers to the standards from paragraph 65 of Good Medical Practice. This states that ‘You must make sure that your conduct justifies your patients’ trust in you and the public’s trust in the profession.’

Significance

Although a warning was not the most severe sanction that the Tribunal could have decided upon, it is nevertheless a reminder that healthcare professionals must act in a manner which corresponds with the standards applicable to their profession at all times, including in their private lives.

This case highlights the importance of understanding that acceptance of a police caution by a registered healthcare professional is likely to result in an investigation by the relevant regulatory body. Paragraph 76 of Good Medical Practice states that a registrant must notify the GMC if they accept a police caution. Similarly, under the General Dental Council’s Standards for the Dental Team, a practitioner must notify the GDC if they have been cautioned.

Dr S accepted the caution without taking legal advice. Whilst that may have been the correct decision in the circumstances of his case, it is important that healthcare professionals are aware that they have the right to legal advice before accepting a caution.

In any event, healthcare professions should be mindful of the fact that acceptance of a caution involves an acceptance of guilt.