PCT payout for unfair GP suspension

A PCT that unlawfully suspended a GP from its performers' lists might have to pay out more than £80,000 in costs.

Waltham Forest PCT faces an additional bill for damages after High Court judge Mr Justice Collins ruled that inclusion on a PCT's medical performers list is protected under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The case involved single-handed GP Dr Zafar Iqbal Malik who faced a series of PCT suspension hearings which the judge ruled were unlawful.

Mr Justice Collins expressed surprise that a PCT should 'disregard not only the terms of the regulations, but also the guidance given by the DoH'.

The court found that the PCT had acted unlawfully because Dr Malik was not told of the allegations against him and the PCT had not specified the length of the suspension period.

The Medical Protection Society (MPS) said the judgment demonstrated that some PCTs did not follow the procedures.

MPS director of education and communication Dr Stephanie Bown told GP: 'This judgment must send a clear message to PCTs that they need to treat doctors on the performers' lists fairly. The DoH must look at how PCTs are managing performers' lists to find out why mistakes are being made.'

Dr Bown said PCTs would be well advised to talk to the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) when considering action over GP performance.

NCAS runs a helpline that PCTs and GPs can access.

An NCAS spokesman said: 'There is no obligation, prior to exclusion or suspension of a GP from a list, that the PCT should contact NCAS for advice. But we have experts who can help and provide an instant response, and we can also act as mediators.'

Head of advisory services at the Medical Defence Union Dr Peter Schutte said the court ruling set a welcome precedent.

'It is a matter of serious concern that some PCTs don't follow the regulations,' he said.

'PCTs might want to suspend GPs to protect the public during an investigation, but they must tell the doctor why they are being suspended.'

Dr Schutte added: 'If a PCT is considering suspending a GP it should involve the NCAS.'

- Contact the NCAS 24-hour helpline on (020) 7084 3850.

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