Medical case study: A glass too many

...Dr B has been out with friends at the pub and later on the drive home she is stopped at a police checkpoint and breathalysed...

BACKGROUND

Dr B is a specialist trainee and contacts MDDUS regarding an incident at the weekend. She had been out with friends at the pub and later that evening on the drive home she was stopped at a police checkpoint.

She was breathalysed and found to be over the prescribed alcohol limit and formally charged with drink driving.

Dr B is aware that she must inform the General Medical Council (GMC) about the incident and asks MDDUS for assistance.

ANALYSIS/OUTCOME

An MDDUS adviser discusses the matter with Dr B, first on the phone and then with a follow-up letter.

The adviser confirms that GMC guidance states: “You must tell us without delay if, anywhere in the world… you have been charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence.”

Dr B is advised to immediately self-refer to the GMC and is provided with a link to an online form on the GMC website. The adviser informs her that the GMC will contact her employer to enquire if there are any local factors they should take into account when assessing the case.

Two weeks later Dr B receives a letter from an investigation officer at the GMC. She is informed that, based on the information provided, the GMC will undertake a review of her fitness to practise. This process will involve an assistant registrar at the GMC assessing the particulars of her case and advising on next steps.

Dr B is also informed that she is free to submit information and comments on the incident but is advised to take advice from MDDUS before doing so.

MDDUS drafts a formal response in consultation with Dr B. The letter first provides details of her training/professional background and unblemished record, with no substantive complaints at local level. It then offers a summary of the events leading up to the incident. Dr B had a few drinks early in the evening and had assumed that she was fit to drive.

The letter further states that Dr B is remorseful in having made this error, and appreciates that she should not have been driving on the night in question. She has now reconsidered the standards expected under GMC guidance and has reflected on how her error was not in keeping with those standards. The letter also points out that the incident will be a matter of discussion in her next appraisal.

A month later Dr B appears in magistrates court and pleads guilty. She is fined and given a 12-month driving ban, reduced to nine months on completion of a drink driving rehabilitation course.

In the meantime the GMC writes requesting that Dr B undertake a health assessment. This will be conducted remotely due to Covid-19 restrictions. Dr B is advised to complete and return a health form.

A few weeks later, health assessments are carried out by two independent medical examiners. Both conclude that Dr B’s behaviour appears out of character and there are no obvious health concerns regarding her fitness to practise.

Three months later the GMC assistant registrar writes to Dr B informing her that two case examiners have considered the allegations and supporting documents and have decided to conclude the case with the offer of a warning. The warning will be visible on the online register for two years, along with a summary of why it was issued. After this, a record of the warning will be kept and disclosed to employers on request.

Dr B accepts the warning and MDDUS informs the GMC in a formal letter.

KEY POINTS

  • Inform the GMC without delay if you are subject to criminal proceedings.
  • Contact MDDUS without delay for assistance in dealing with GMC matters.
  • Be prepared to engage fully with GMC procedures in investigating such concerns.

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