Failure to supply medical records of treatment of a patient

In this inquiry, the doctor concerned was a hospital based consultant and had been requested by a firm of solicitors to provide a report in relation to his treatment of a patient who had attended him at the outpatients’ clinic in a hospital as a result of injuries sustained in a road traffic accident. Subsequently the patient instructed the firm of solicitors to pursue a personal injury action on his behalf.

The solicitors wrote to the consultant seeking a medico-legal report, as the patients treating consultant, setting out the consultants’ treatment of the patient together with prognosis and sequelae.

The solicitors wrote to the consultant on a number of occasions seeking the report but received no response and subsequently complained about the consultant to the Preliminary Proceedings Committee (PPC) of the Medical Council under Part 7 of the Act. Despite providing observations and comments to the PPC the doctor did not provide a medico-legal report and the matter was referred to the Fitness to Practise Committee (FTPC) for an inquiry.

The inquiry was convened for the Fitness to Practise Committee under Part 8 of the Act and was heard in public.

Before the inquiry commenced, however, and on advice from his own solicitor, the consultant did provide the requested medico-legal report to the solicitors. The solicitors who made the complaint indicated that as they had now received the medico-legal report they did not wish to pursue the complaint at the inquiry.

When the matter came for hearing before the Fitness to Practise Committee the members of the inquiry panel were informed of the developments. The doctor, through his solicitor, offered an undertaking to the FTPC as the subject matter of the complaint had now been disposed of and, as the consultant’s circumstances had changed in the meantime (he had now effectively retired from public practice), he was prepared to offer undertakings to the FTPC under Section 67 of the Act. In so doing, no finding of professional misconduct would be made against the doctor in the circumstances.

The doctor did undertake however:-

  • Not to repeat the conduct subject matter of the complaint and consented to being censured by the Medical Council.

In accepting the doctors undertaking, the Chairman of the FTPC commented that the committee was conscious that doctors have an ethical obligation to provide reports as set out in the Ethical Guide (see paragraph 57.1 of the Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners) and that regrettably the workload a doctor may have to experience is no excuse not to provide a timely report, or at the very least engage in correspondence or dialogue with either the patient or the patients solicitors. Therefore, unnecessary delay may have arisen with increased costs and increased suffering to the patient.