Two GPs have been cleared of attempting to conceal the amount of sedative pills they were prescribing to patients.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) yesterday (5 May) found no case to answer in response to accusations of dishonesty against GPs Dr Gabrielle McKeever and Dr Paul Flanigan.
In August 2016, a member of the now non-functioning Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), referred Dr McKeever and Dr Flanigan to the General Medical Council (GMC), alleging the pair were dishonest about their private prescriptions.
The HSCB was concerned about the amount of Z drugs and benzodiazepines that were being prescribed by Loy Medical Practice in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, between 2011 and 2015, where Dr McKeever and Dr Flanigan were partners.
Pre-hearing information said that both GPs ‘privately prescribed medication to a number of patients who were entitled to it on the NHS’.
It was alleged they knew of the targets to reduce the prescription of these drugs on the NHS with financial incentives, and that the practice ‘received payments to which it was not entitled.’
The GMC claimed that during a meeting between HSCB officials and Loy Medical Practice in 2015, Dr Flanigan said the new prescribing targets had been met with ‘resistance from patients’.
The tribunal heard that there was no record of this meeting which could prove that Dr Flanigan had said this.
After applications made by lawyers representing the GPs, the MPTS found neither GP’s fitness to practise to be impaired.
In 2016, GPs practising under NHS contracts were advised not to offer private prescriptions alongside FP10s.
A 2017 study found that a quarter of a million patients may be prescribed benzodiazepines and Z-drugs for over 12 months by GPs, despite guidance that states they must be prescribed for no longer than four weeks.
Two GPs were suspended from the GMC register in 2019 for prescribing opioids online to multiple patients through an online pharmacy without appropriate safeguards in place.
Ministers have pledged to ‘take action’ on overprescribing after an official review concluded that 10% of medicines dispensed in primary care in England were not needed.
The GMC has proposed a number of amendments to its Good Medical Practice guide, including a commitment to consider which ‘context’ a doctor was working in if a complaint arises.