Yes, if the facts meet the GMC threshold for an investigation it is open to them to proceed anyway.

Dr A was alleged to have committed various acts of child benefit fraud.  It was alleged she completed 2 applications for child benefit when she did not have any children at all or any who would be eligible, completed 5 healthcare professional’s statements in support of 5 different women and made 8 calls purporting to be those women, all of which was fraudulent and dishonest.

The police decided not to prosecute the doctor but the relevant information arising from the investigation was passed to the GMC.  It is worth noting at this point that it is quite common for forces in the UK to have processes under which doctors who are arrested or reported are also automatically reported to the GMC.  This applies not only in serious offences but lesser matters such as cautions and driving offences.   GMP also requires registrants to inform the GMC if they have accepted a caution or been charged with or found guilty of a criminal offence.

The GMC determined that they would proceed with an investigation in any event and ultimately referred the matter to the MPTS.  As part of the process they provided evidence of handwriting analysis and evidence from the DWP.   Save to acknowledge there was an investigation, the doctor did not participate in the investigation and did not participate in or attend the hearing.  The Tribunal accepted the handwriting evidence incriminating Dr A and the evidence collected by the police during its investigation.  Whilst they could not be completely sure Dr A did not have a child they did go on to find the applications were false and the claim was dishonest.

An interesting point arises in the judgement regarding the definition of ‘colleagues’ in paragraph 68 of Good Medical Practice, which states that “you must be honest and trustworthy in all your communication with patients and colleagues”.  This Tribunal determined that communication with the Child Benefit Centre staff was with ‘colleagues’ as the health assessments are relied upon to assess eligibility.

Dr A was erased from the register.  The Tribunal held the dishonesty was at the top end of the scale, she only stopped her actions after they were uncovered and there was no evidence of any remorse.

If you face circumstances you believe might compromise your FTP, whether formal proceedings are instituted or not, it is important to seek advice from us or your medical defence organisation.  In most cases, we can provide early advice to mitigate the risks you might face later and protect your position.