Yes, but it will risk being found to be serious misconduct and falling foul of Good Medical Practice.

Dr L found herself being accused by the GMC of being dishonest in relation to false information she had provided on a form applying for assistance with accommodation.  The mistakes were stipulating a wrong address (31A instead of 31) and claiming rent was more than three times more than the actual regular monetary payment which was being made.  However, she gave consistent evidence there was an informal arrangement between her and two other occupants for meeting household expenses and explained that she did not appreciate the she was not renting 31A. During the facts stage there was speculation she had a lack of curiosity about financial matters and it was accepted she was relatively new to the country.

The GMC argued her FTP was impaired because Dr L had not applied herself diligently when applying for assistance and had been unquestioning and lacking in curiosity which was a serious matter for a doctor.  Paragraph 71 of GMP includes provision that when signing forms or other documents you take steps to make sure the information is correct.

On behalf of Dr L it was argued that it was not serious misconduct and it was pointed out one measure was whether other practitioners would consider the conduct deplorable and this was not true in this instance. After the facts stage a bundle was provided in relation to impairment.  The evidence included a reflective statement, a certificate following a probity and ethics course, a supervisor report and testimonials.  Dr L was entirely honest at the first opportunity, had not tried to cover any matter up, and it was a one off incident from which she had not benefitted in any way.  She was also an excellent doctor and supportive to her colleagues.

The Tribunal found that there was serious misconduct.  There had been a breach of GMP and they referred to the fact doctors sign forms on a daily basis for various reasons and are expected to pay attention to details.  They declined to find impairment.  There was early insight, complete openness, remorse and they took the view this was an isolated incident sufficiently marked already by the investigation and process.

The error on the form was first considered by an NHS counter fraud unit but their investigation did not proceed.  For reasons unconnected with the investigation Dr L withdrew her application and made no claim for money.  It seems likely Dr L was referred by them to the GMC, who obviously did proceed with their investigation as a FTP matter and they continued to allege dishonesty.  It is notable that the documents were personal documents when originally signed – a tenancy agreement and financial documents –  it is hard to imagine any doctor would expect slips on such quotidian documents could come back to haunt them in such a life changing way.  If you have any concerns about personal matters you fear may jeopardise your registration please do contact us and we can provide advice.  We cannot help but think about the fact that in this case an early clarification and remedying of the documents would have likely spared the later major upset experienced by the doctor.