The GMC has been criticised in the High Court for failing to share mitigating documentation with its own tribunal in a fitness-to-practise case involving a GP trainee.
Dr Abayomi Sansui had appealed the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service’s (MPTS) decision to have him struck off the medical register last year, arguing that documents he submitted to the GMC in his defence were never passed on to the tribunal.
Although the High Court decided to uphold the decision to strike off Dr Sansui, it told the GMC that in failing to submit the documents to the tribunal ‘the system did not operate as it should have done’.
Dr Sansui was accused of failing to assess and keep adequate records of two patients between 2012 and 2014 while working as a surgical registrar at Friarage Hospital in North Yorkshire.
Following internal disciplinary hearings, the hospital referred the case to the GMC in 2015, which concluded that he ‘presented an ongoing risk to patients and the public’, striking him off the medical register two years later.
Dr Sansui, who was re-training to be a GP at the time, did not attend the MPTS tribunal as he ‘had limited time off as leave of absence’ and did not send a lawyer because of ‘financial constraints’, the appeal decision said.
Instead, he contacted a caseworker at the GMC, sending her ‘a substantial number of documents over a considerable period’.
These documents included a testimonial letter from his GP trainer, appraisal documents, ‘expressions of appreciation from former patients’ and ‘the results of clinical evaluation exercises undertaken by supervising doctors while working at Friarage Hospital’.
However, in his appeal decision Mr Justice Kerr said: ‘The tribunal did not see these documents. Many of them were shown to me during the hearing of this appeal.’
He added: ‘The GMC and its legal advisers, for their part, should always take whatever steps are reasonable to put relevant documents in its possession before the tribunal; and counsel should check that documents in the GMC’s possession that are readily available and relevant to mitigation are provided to the tribunal; especially if it is known that an absent doctor has so requested, and more particularly still if the absent doctor is unrepresented.’
Mr Justice Kerr said: ‘I conclude, without wishing to criticise individuals in this case, that the system did not operate as it should have done.
‘Dr Sanusi’s mitigation documents sent to the caseworker should have been placed before the tribunal.’
But he added that the documents ‘were not reasonably capable of affecting the outcome that occurred’ and Dr Sansui ‘demonstrated a remarkable lack of acceptance of responsibility’.
A GMC spokesperson said: ‘We are reflecting on the decision and Mr Justice Kerr’s comments, as we do in all cases.
‘We have already taken steps to make sure that we appropriately manage any documents provided to us by a doctor if they are absent and unrepresented at their hearing.
‘This includes providing additional support to all relevant staff to make sure they are aware of our obligation to disclose any relevant material to a tribunal.’
Earlier this week, the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting voted in favour of a motion declaring ‘that it has no confidence in the GMC as a professional regulatory body’, following the controversial court case involving Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba.