Exclusive The CQC’s decision to close down a practice was ‘draconian’, and their concerns did not ‘justify such serious measures’, a tribunal in London heard yesterday.
Dr Mujib ul Haq Khan launched an appeal against the regulator yesterday after his practice in Southfields, south west London, was found to have breached multiple regulations in January, leading to the immediate withdrawal of his practice registration.
This left 700 patients having to look for a new GP, the Care Standards Tribunal in south London heard.
This is the first legal action taken by a GP against the CQC, and GP leaders had said that any successful claim would be ‘absolutely enormous’, and could subsequently embolden other GPs to take action.
In the pleading document submitted before the hearing, Dr Khan’s lawyers claim he is ‘very well-liked and respected by his patients’ and that his patients had provided ‘favourable feedback on the service they have received.’
Dr Khan’s lawyer claimed that he had addressed concerns raised by the CQC in visits in June and August last year, and that breaches identified in January 2015 – which led to the closure – were different.
But CQC inspection manager Rebecca Gale told the hearing that there had been ‘no significant improvement’ by the time of the visit in January 2015 after the initial visits last year.
The CQC says that inspectors found serious breaches, including out-of-date drugs, an empty first aid box and inadequate supplies of oxygen because the cylinder had expired in 2008.
The CQC claimed that during the January 2015 inspection:
- a locum doctor at the practice did not know where emergency medication was kept on site.
- another locum treated two patients at the surgery without access to emergency drugs or Khan being present.
- medication was kept in Dr Khan’s emergency bag, but the lock was broken and it could not be opened without a screwdriver.
- a locum unaware about the procedure to raise issues about patient welfare or child protection.
Dr Khan denies these allegataions.
When asked why the CQC had closed the practice immediately, Mrs Gale answered: ‘He had failed to meet previous warning notices so we took the escalation to the next stage.
‘We had to take into account the history of the provider who had failed to respond to the breaches of regulations over the year.’
She added that the ‘overall condition’ of the practice had deteriorated.
Simon Fox, representing Dr Khan, insisted that the concerns raised in the final inspection were different from the 2014 visits.
Mr Fox argued that because the practice is ‘so small’ and had less than five employees there was no need for formal systems to deal with emergency incidents.
‘If there’s a medical emergency you are going to go to the one doctor on site, it’s common sense,’ he added.
‘This was a singlehanded GP with one practice manager and two part-time receptionists.’
Summing up, Mr Fox said: ‘We would understand the decision to suspend if the failures in January 2015 were the same as the year before.
‘These are new failures and they are largely because of the change to the practice which required locums to be brought in.’
Mr Fox added: ‘They are not the kind of concerns that would justify such a serious measure, such a draconian measure as a suspension.’
Iain Macdonald, representing the CQC, told the hearing that the problems flagged in January were ‘the latest and most serious examples of continuing management failures’.
He said: ‘What were found in January 2015 were new failings, as though that somehow makes it better.
‘What he (Dr Khan) says is wipe the slate clean from what happened in 2014 and go back to the start.
‘But here there were outstanding warning notices so that option wasn’t open to the CQC.
‘The situation points to an overall lack of managerial insight.’
A ruling is expected in the next few days.