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GPs face landmark legal case over failure to whistle-blow on colleagues

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs are facing a landmark legal case seeking to hold them to account for failing to take action after complaints of misconduct were directed at their colleagues.

Two groups of women are suing the ex-partners of GPs in Brighton and Epsom, in Surrey, accusing them of allowing their colleagues to continue to practise after concerns had been raised.

The case, understood to be the first of its kind, follows Pulse's survey last month revealing that one in five GPs has blown the whistle on a GP colleague because of concerns over fitness to practise.

Former Brighton GP Rodney Tate was struck off the medical register last year after he was adjudged to have carried out intimate examinations on seven female patients without consent, while former Surrey GP Adil Shareef was jailed last July after being found guilty of assaulting five women, four of them his patients.

The legal action against their former partners is set to act as a test case, with lawyers hoping to establish ‘a clear legal duty' of GP partners to blow the whistle and take action against colleagues if they have concerns over their fitness to practise.

Sarah Harman, senior partner at Harman and Harman solicitors, representing the women, told Channel 4 News: ‘It is not uncommon for partners to know [about concerns] and for nothing to be done. We're trying to establish a clear legal duty of partners to each other in a GP practice with the hope it will be safer for patients.'

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, BMA head of ethics, said: ‘The GMC is pretty clear if you think someone is causing potential risk to your patients you've got to take action. The difficulty comes from how much evidence you need to have. What GPs are more likely to have is a suspicion, so that makes things very difficult.'

The legal action is set to act as a test case The legal action is set to act as a test case

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