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GP has to cut session to cope with paperwork

Doctors facing misconduct charges will no longer be able to offer a defence that the event was an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished career.

Under a Court of Appeal ruling last week, testimonials from patients or colleagues about a doctor will also be deemed 'irrelevant' in judging serious professional misconduct.

Defence bodies said the ruling would have serious consequences for around 150 doctors facing GMC misconduct charges brought before November 2004 and would increase the number found guilty.

GMC fitness to practise regulations changed last November to stop the 'isolated incident' defence being used in new cases.

In a case involving a paediatrician, three appeal court judges said the GMC should not have used 'personal mitigation to downgrade what would otherwise amount to serious professional misconduct' .

They also said the Privy Council had been 'wrong' to overturn serious professional misconduct verdicts on two GPs on the basis that the incidents were isolated.

Dr Peter Schütte, head of advisory services at the Medical Defence Union, said the appeal court ruling was regrettable. 'It's a pity that at the very time the GMC is moving towards a more holistic approach to alleged impaired fitness to practise, it will not be able to look at a doctor's previous practice when considering remaining cases.'

Dr Michael Silver, one of the two GPs cleared by the Privy Council, said he had been 'lucky' to escape.

The appeal court said it would not welcome applications to reopen previous cases.

Dr Silver added: 'I would have been a very worried man if it had.'

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