In Hameed v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the High Court considered whether Central Manchester NHS Foundation Trust was in breach of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights when it dismissed Dr Hameed for gross misconduct.

Dr Hameed had enjoyed a successful and unblemished career as a hospital ophthalmologist until an incident in 2008 when she sanctioned the use of non sterile scissors in surgery, putting patients’ health at risk. The Trust commenced a disciplinary process compliant with the Department of Health framework (MHPS) which resulted in her dismissal for gross misconduct.

Dr Hameed argued that the disciplinary process was in breach of Article 6 which provides:

‘In the determination of his civil rights and obligations…everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law’.

Dr Hameed argued that the procedure adopted at the disciplinary hearing did not comply in a number of respects even though it complied with MHPS. She argued that the panel which heard the case was not independent or impartial: only one member of the panel was not employed by the Trust. She argued that, as in the case of Kulkarni (see Employment Briefing September 09), if she were dismissed for gross misconduct she would find it very difficult to work as a doctor again. The High Court rejected this argument. They did not accept her contention that her dismissal would have the same effect as that of Dr Kulkarni. The misconduct alleged against her was of a very different type and she had an excellent record. Dr Hameed’s case did not fall within the type of exceptional circumstances envisaged in Kulkarni.

This case is a useful reminder that Article 6 will only be engaged in exceptional circumstances and that dismissal for gross misconduct, without more, is unlikely to suffice. Leave to appeal has been granted.