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Doctor wins battle against GMC's decision to strike him off

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7326.1388a (Published 15 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1388
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    The Privy Council has overturned an “unduly harsh and disproportionate” decision by the UK's General Medical Council to strike off a doctor who inflated NHS fee claims.

    Lord Hope, Sir Anthony Evans, and Sir Philip Otton instead imposed a three month suspension on Khan Mohammad Manzur, whose name was ordered to be erased from the medical register last May.

    Sir Philip, delivering the judgment of the Privy Council (a panel of senior judges who hear appeals from GMC rulings) described its power to set aside disciplinary orders as “rarely exercised.” However, although the power was hardly ever used in the past, the Manzur case is the third within two months in which erasures have been overturned and more lenient sentences imposed (13 October, p 824).

    The change has come about as a result of the Human Rights Act, which came into force in October 2000. It incorporates into UK law the European convention on human rights, with its guarantee of a fair trial with an effective appeal system.

    Dr Manzur, an ophthalmic surgeon, carried out eye tests at nursing homes for which the NHS paid £24.94 ($36) for the first two tests and £6.94 for each subsequent test on the same occasion. He altered the dates on claim forms to increase the number of tests apparently falling into the better paid category.

    After a health authority audit, he was charged with false accounting. He pleaded guilty at the magistrates court to five charges and asked for five more to be taken into consideration.

    Sir Philip said that the amount he had falsely obtained amounted to £728 at worst. He admitted liability for £689, which he had repaid at an early stage.

    An optician who had obtained £4000 had been given a community service order but had not been disciplined by any professional body. Another doctor who had received more than £1400 had opted for jury trial, but after he produced medical reports the prosecution was dropped. It appeared that he was not to be brought before the GMC.

    By contrast, Sir Philip said, the magistrates court had ordered Dr Manzur to pay a fine of £7500 and he was subjected to GMC proceedings. Now aged 64, he had had a long career in the United Kingdom and Bangladesh, during which his ability had never been questioned, and had given service to others going well beyond what was normally expected of a doctor. Substantial periods of his own time had been spent in Bangladesh alleviating the suffering of disadvantaged people, and he had raised money and provided from his own resources to buy spectacles for poor patients.

    The judges considered that erasure was “unduly harsh and disproportionate, that it was not necessary in the public interest, and that they should invoke their rarely exercised power to set aside a direction of the [GMC's] professional conduct committee.”

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