GMC backs reversal of GP suspension over laptop and admits tribunal error

The GMC has admitted a medical tribunal was wrong to suspend a Manchester GP for a month over claiming she was promised a laptop and will not contest her appeal.

Sign reading 'General Medical Council'

Dr Manjula Arora was suspended for one month in May after a medical tribunal found she had dishonestly claimed to have been promised a laptop - in a case the BMA warned would deepen doctors' concerns about the GMC's 'disproportionate and unfair approach to their regulatory system as it applies to the medical profession'.

However, an appeal by Dr Arora will no longer go ahead after the GMC announced it had agreed to 'dispose of the appeal' and restore the Manchester GP's full registration with a licence to practise, with no fitness to practise ruling on her record.

The GMC said the dishonesty test that formed the basis for the finding against Dr Arora had been 'applied incorrectly by the tribunal'.

GMC case

A GMC spokesperson said: ‘Dr Arora has appealed the decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS). Having considered the tribunal’s decisions and sought the views of external counsel, we believe that the dishonesty test was applied incorrectly by the tribunal.

‘That means that the findings of dishonesty, impairment and sanction should not stand and so we have agreed with the doctor’s representative to dispose of the appeal without the need for a hearing. Should the court approve that agreement the doctor will have full registration with a license to practise, and no fitness to practise finding recorded on her registration.’

The agreement between the GMC and Dr Arora's legal representatives to dispose of the appeal without a hearing will now be considered by a High Court judge.

Dr Arora's case sparked widespread outrage, with the BMA calling the decision to suspend her 'incomprehensible'. The association called for an independent investigation into GMC processes following the case - and has repeated those calls after the regulator's admission that Dr Arora's suspension was a mistake.

The medical tribunal decision to suspend her came after it found that Dr Arora's actions had been dishonest and 'constitute misconduct which was serious' - despite acknowledging that her 'dishonesty was confined to the use of a single word on a single occasion' and that she was 'a person of good character'.

Laptop claim

The tribunal heard that the medical director for the organisation Dr Arora worked for wrote to her in an email that no laptops were currently available 'but I will note your interest when the next rollout happens'.

Dr Arora subsequently told an IT department colleague she had been told she could have a laptop 'next time it's available' and added that she had been 'promised' one.

Referring to the case in his keynote speech at the BMA annual representative meeting on 27 June, the association's chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was 'no wonder those three letters - GMC - instil terror in doctors' who fear the system is 'stacked against them'.

Despite dropping the suspension imposed on Dr Arora, the GMC will go ahead with a review into how her case was handled.

GMC review

The regulator appointed its BME committee chair and a QC last week to conduct a review that will look at how Dr Arora came to be referred to the GMC, the decision to proceed to an investigation and the handling of the case by the tribunal.

Responding to the GMC update on the case, Dr Nagpaul said: 'The fact that the GMC has effectively overturned Dr Arora’s suspension shows that the current system is structurally disproportionate, with insufficient checks and balances, and is manifestly unjust.'

He said the decision was right, but did not address 'systemic flaws in the entire referral pathway to the GMC' - and that only an independent review could bring this about.

A Doctors Association UK spokesperson said: 'We are delighted by this decision and welcome a victory for common sense. Justice has finally been served but this does not discount the unnecessary stress to Dr Arora and the message sent to thousands of doctors that their regulatory body does not think twice before unjustly suspending them. We hope that the GMC will now review their processes accordingly.'

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