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GP convicted of patient assault after attending an emergency call

A GP who was handed a two-month suspension after he admitted assaulting a man he had been told to attend to in the street has raised questions about the support for lone GPs sent to deal with emergency calls.

Dr Martin Thom, who works at the Saltoun surgery in Fraserburgh in the north of Scotland, was fined £360 in November last year after pleading guilty and convicted of assault.

The incident occurred after Dr Thom was called to attend to a 25-year-old man who was reported as having collapsed in the street, ‘apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs’. Dr Thom was responding to an emergency call because there was no ambulance available to attend.

Witnesses said that Dr Thom seized hold of the man’s body and pushed him so that the man banged his head on a wall. Witnesses also described Dr Thom as punching the man on the face twice, causing injury.

Dr Thom said the patient had hit him first and although he had 'no recollection' of punching him back, he accepted, based on the witness statement, that he had done so.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service was told the episode was a ‘one-off’ and ‘out of character’ and that the GP had taken ‘genuine and significant steps towards remediation’, including stress counseling.

The tribunal heard that Dr Thom was ‘held in high regard as a GP in the local area by other professionals as well as by patients, family and friends’.

After the incident Dr Thom wrote to his LMC to ‘clarify the position on lone GPs attending ambulance calls’. The tribunal heard that he had been ‘nervous’ because he had previously attended calls where he was not equipped to help, such as when someone was having a heart attack.

Although the tribunal decided against striking him off, it ruled that the incident was too serious not to impose a short-term ban.

Suspension would ‘send a clear message to you, the public and the profession about the unacceptable nature of the conduct which gave rise to your conviction,’ it concluded.

Assaulting a vulnerable patient was a ‘breach of a fundamental tenet of the profession’, the tribunal added.

Panel chairman Michelle Codd told Dr Thom: ‘By your admission of guilt, you accepted that you had exceeded the level of force that was justified to deal with the situation before you.’

Readers' comments (20)

  • Ridiculous. The MPTS is staffed by clinical bods keen to earn money while avoiding front-line care.

    Emergency response because no ambulance? Sorry, as a GP unless there is a BASICS LES in place, no responsibility to attend. Not your problem to make up the paramedic shortfall - look at the outcome. Just don't go.

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  • Hmm. I do hope you're not a real GP. Certainly doesn't sound like the GPs I know and the public respect.

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  • I thought it was ridiculous when I first read the headline but if you accept you punched a man in the face, not sure how you would defend yourself.

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  • Actually GMS holds a duty to attend. Damned either way.

    http://www.gplaw.co.uk/chapter-7-the-services-an-nhs-gp-practice-is-obliged-to-provide-to-patients#chapter707

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  • Gmc holds duty to attend but if u r a locum and not contracted todo so you don't have to- employment law

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  • Was he the practices registered patient?
    If no then .. not contractually obliged to attend.. Its not like the Good Samaritan act where you have to get involved if you are walking along and something happens in front of you..
    How about ..
    hello mate are you ok ...
    F off doc ..
    ok see ya ..
    back to my busy list

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  • ‘By your admission of guilt'
    wake up GMC
    stop being lazy and conduct your own assessment of individual events

    Sometimes people are strategically forced to take lesser charge guilty pleas, especially on trumped up allegations and collusion of witnesses
    Defending ones innocence can be expensive and laborious and extremely uncertain with the risk of a more serious

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  • Dear Admin - There needs to be a means of editing ones replies once posted ..
    00:45 end with more serious conviction

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  • John Glasspool

    It annoyed me at first but please consider, for whatever reason he DID plead GUILTY.

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  • Russell Thorpe

    There was a time when public would come to the aid of a doc being assaulted rather than act as a witness against him

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