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Burnt out GP considers legal action against NHS England after they order him to stop doing pro bono work

Exclusive A GP who was served with a breach notice by NHS England is looking at taking legal action after managers ordered him to stop doing pro bono work at substance misuse clinics and prisons in his spare time.

The LMC leader who is dealing with the case of Dr Shahzad Arif, the Doncaster GP who was served with a breach notice by NHS England after taking a period of sick leave due to stress earlier in the year, said that the ban on these extra clinics was the ‘final straw’, as the work was his form of ‘stress relief’.

Dr Dean Eggitt, Doncaster LMC chief, said that Dr Arif is looking at a possible case of discrimination, and the LMC was supporting him in gathering evidence.

Following a meeting with the NHS England area team last Friday, Dr Arif was not only told that his GP has to approve of what work he is capable volunteering for in his spare time but also that he has to be supervised in primary care work.

But Doncaster LMC chair Dr Dean Eggitt said the LMC was supporting Dr Arif – who asked Dr Eggitt to speak on his behalf – in his appeal of the breach notice he was handed earlier in the year as well as these new sanctions.

Dr Eggitt said: ‘Dr Arif is obviously quite upset and has decided that he wants to take legal action against them because they have not been supportive and they have been discriminatory in their investigation around his issues.’

According to Dr Eggitt, Dr Arif will be challenging the investigative work carried out by NHS England, which had ‘not looked at all of the evidence’ when assessing Dr Arif’s case.

He said: ‘There has been quite an escalation of this and that is really around our area team’s performance advisory group’s ability to do the investigative work properly. Had they done it properly, we don’t believe it would have escalated to this point.’

‘We support Dr Arif in his statements that NHS England’s performance advisory group has not done a thorough investigation of what is happening.’

The LMC leader also launched an attack on NHS England for trying to take away from Dr Arif the one thing that gives him stress relief.

He said: ‘Throughout all this nobody spoke to Dr Arif. During the investigation, no one sat down with him and said “why are you under stress?”, “what is the issue and how can we help?”. Had they asked him that they would have discovered that his activity in his extra clinics are stress relief.

‘When he finished the day job in the practice, tired and stressed, he goes to do these as a hobby, which he enjoys and it is a way of relaxing. So then removing them from him has actually removed his coping mechanisms, and nobody even asked him that.’

A spokesperson for NHS England said they would not comment on individual cases.

They added: ‘NHS England has a clear process in place for dealing with concerns about doctors. Details of NHS England’s ‘Responding to Concerns’ process are available on the NHS England website. 

‘As part of this process, we are able to offer GPs who may have a health problem, referral for an occupational health assessment and support. Any activity for which registration with General Medical Council (GMC) is required, may be subject to restriction in order to protect patients, the practitioner or colleagues.

‘We will always seek to support the doctor and protecting patient safety is paramount at all times.’