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Ashton v General Medical Council (2013) EWHC 943 (Admin)

Sarah Ellson
10/05/2013
In November 2012, a Fitness to Practise Panel of the MPTS ("the Panel") made findings of fact against A in respect of his failure whilst working as a GP to refer Patient A to a gastroenterology team In November 2012, a Fitness to Practise Panel of the MPTS ("the Panel") made findings of fact against A in respect of his failure whilst working as a GP to refer Patient A to a gastroenterology team on an urgent, rather than routine basis.  The Panel found that such failure amounted to misconduct.  The Panel further determined that the appropriate sanction was that of a six month suspension, which was to be imposed with immediate effect.

A appealed on four grounds: firstly, that the single clinical incident was insufficient to amount to misconduct or, secondly, to justify a finding of impairment; thirdly, that it was not necessary or proportionate to impose an order of six months suspension; and fourthly that it was not necessary or proportionate to impose the suspension with immediate effect. 

The High Court dismissed the first, second and third grounds of the appeal, but upheld the fourth ground.

Noting the statutory test for the imposition of an immediate order (that it is necessary for the protection of the public, in the public interest or in the best interests of the practitioner), the Court held that the imposition of an immediate order was not necessary. At the time of the hearing, A was working in a field in which his work was satisfactory.  Whilst he remained in that field, the risk to the public was considered negligible.  Further, it was unlikely that Dr Ashton would be able to return to work as a GP within the 28 day period before his suspension came into force, as that required acceptance onto the performers list.  As such, Mr Justice Steward-Smith considered it 'hard to see why public confidence would be eroded by permitting Dr Ashton to practise in a remote field of medicine during the relatively short appeal period.' As such, A succeeded on the fourth ground of appeal.

Read the case here.

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