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GP who ran out of hours service provided inadequate care, tribunal hears

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f4217 (Published 28 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f4217
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

A GP earning £230 000 (€270 000; $350 000) a year was 225 km away at his home in Norfolk when he should have been on call in Croydon in south London, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service has been told.

Ravi Sondhi, 52, is also accused of abusing his position as financial director of Croydon Doctors on Call (Croydoc) and taking unauthorised financial advances from the service without the board’s agreement.

A fitness to practise panel at the tribunal in Manchester heard that he took the advances for himself and his wife, Salma Uddin, who also worked for the service, against their salaries. By 2009 he had taken £100 000 more than the couple were entitled to at that point.

Paul Ozin, counsel for the General Medical Council, told the panel, “Dr Sondhi had plenty of time to bring it to the attention of the board. We invite you to draw the inference he chose not to do so as he knew they would take a dim view of his actions, as indeed they did.”

He added, “Dr Sondhi got through getting on for two years without anybody knowing about it. By any ordinary standards of behaviour his conduct was dishonest, and he must have known that.” A sum of £41 910 was never recovered and had to be written off.

Croydoc, a GP cooperative set up in 1995, won contracts to provide overnight and weekend services to patients in the London boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Sutton, and Merton. A report commissioned by NHS Croydon concluded in 2011 that Sondhi had personally controlled the out of hours service.1

At one time he was simultaneously chairman, medical director, operations director, and financial director and was responsible for allocating doctors to on-call rotas.

The GMC alleged that he failed to ensure an adequate level of cover and misled other directors about the cover provided. After 2006 there was only one doctor on the rota, covering a population of 950 000, the NHS Croydon report found.

Ozin said that Sondhi was out of reach at his home in Fakenham, Norfolk, when he was expected to be at the surgery in south London. “This led to the creation of a system which amounted to the provision of inadequate care,” he said.

Sondhi is accused of repeatedly failing to respond to calls, arriving late for shifts, and sometimes failing to turn up at all. On one occasion he is said to have missed 144 calls overnight, and the GMC alleged that he would take between 1.5 and three hours to respond to urgent calls, against a target of 20 minutes.

The GMC also accused him of acting in a “verbally aggressive, intimidating, and abusive” manner to colleagues and referring to coworkers in inappropriate and racist terms.

Sondhi, who denies the misconduct charges, was suspended from practice by the GMC pending the hearing, which is due to last until 26 July.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f4217

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