Primary care trust (PCT) did not violate Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to “peaceful enjoyment of possessions”), by suspending general practitioner from his practice.

Implications

The European Court of Human Rights has stated it does not consider inclusion on a PCT’s performers list, which allowed a GP to provide GP services to the public, a possession because the GP could not demonstrate economic loss. In the circumstances, the European Court did not deem it necessary to determine whether the GP had a possession within the meaning of Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Accordingly, no violation of Article 1 of Protocol 1 had occurred.

Therefore, if a GP can demonstrate economic loss in such circumstances, a claim could potentially be made against a PCT under Article 1 of Protocol 1. Ultimately, however, the question of whether inclusion on a performers list does constitute a possession is yet to be determined.

Background

The GP had a contract with the PCT to provide GP services. As part of this, he was on the PCT’s performers list. However, following inspection, he was suspended from the performers list in January 2005 due to the unacceptable risk he posed to his patients and was therefore prevented from practicing.

The suspension was appealed on the basis it breached Article 1 of Protocol 1 ECHR because his right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions had been violated.

The question was whether being on the PCT’s performers list constituted a possession and whether there had been any interference with the right to peaceful enjoyment of that possession.

Decision

The European Court of Human Rights found in favour of the PCT on the ground that the suspension did not actually affect the GP in terms of his rights. Accordingly, there had been no interference with his right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions.

The Court gave the following reasons for there having been no violation:

  • The GP continued to be paid during suspension in accordance with the terms of his NHS contract.
  • Although patient numbers had fallen since the time of his suspension, the GP had failed to show the decrease was caused by the suspension.
  • Even if the fall in patient numbers was caused by the suspension, the GP had not shown that this had affected his immediate income.
  • Although the fall in patient numbers might have affected the goodwill in the practice, the GP was unaffected because he was prevented from selling any goodwill (by virtue of his suspension). Therefore any decrease in the marketable value of the practice was of no consequence to him.