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GMC fails in case against surgeon exonerated of manslaughter

A fitness-to-practise tribunal has found against the GMC, after it pursued a case against a surgeon who was cleared of manslaughter charges.

Mr David Sellu was jailed in 2013 after the death of a patient, but his conviction for gross negligent manslaughter was quashed in 2016 and he has been working under supervision since.

However, the GMC continued to pursue fitness-to-practise proceedings against Mr Sellu after the conviction was quashed.

In a decision released today (Tuesday 6 March), the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) found that all the GMC’s allegations were not proved.

The decision follows the uproar over the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, who the GMC took to High Court after she was found fit to practise by the MPTS – a verdict which led to health secretary Jeremy Hunt instigating a review into medical manslaughter charges led by Professor Sir Norman Williams, the former president of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Mr Sellu, a colorectal surgeon, was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in 2013 after James Hughes, a patient he had performed an operation to repair a perforated bowel on, developed abdominal sepsis and died. After spending time in prison, Mr Sellu’s appeal against the conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2016.

Despite his conviction being quashed, the GMC claimed his fitness to practise was impaired due to a series of faults with his care, including a failure to review Mr Hughes, arrange a CT scan, prescribe antibiotics and make arrangements to perform urgent surgery.

However, the MPTS ruling concluded: that all of these allegations were ‘not proved’.

It said: ‘Having now found and announced all of the alleged facts “not proved”, there is no basis on which this tribunal can proceed to consider whether or not your fitness to practise is impaired.’

As a result, the interim order – which placed conditions on his GMC registration – is ‘thereby revoked with immediate effect’, it added.

Dr Rob Hendry, medical director at the Medical Protection Society, who represented Mr Sellu, said: ‘The MPTS Tribunal’s conclusion that none of the GMC’s allegations against David Sellu are proved will be very welcome news for him and his family. We are pleased to have helped Mr Sellu quash his manslaughter conviction in November 2016, clear his name, and continue his career in medicine. But we know this is also a matter of principle for the wider profession.

‘The MPTS Tribunal heard all of the evidence in this case and tested it rigorously. As we have said before, they are best placed to weigh up all of the factors affecting a doctor’s fitness to practise.

‘By contrast, a criminal court is rarely the best place to hold a doctor to account for what has happened in a complex clinical environment. There has never been a more important time to debate this issue, and we will be calling on the Government review led by Professor Sir Norman Williams to address it.’

A GMC spokesperson said: ‘Although Dr Sellu’s criminal conviction was overturned on appeal there remained a very serious allegation that he failed to provide good clinical care to his patient, Mr Hughes, who sadly died while in hospital in 2010.

‘As there remained a significant dispute about the facts it could only be resolved by referring the case to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

‘The Tribunal, after hearing from all of the witnesses and experts, has resolved the dispute of facts, in the doctor’s favour.’

N.B. This article was corrected on 09:27 to show that Dr Sellu was a colorectal surgeon, and not an orthopaedic surgeon as previously described.