Hartlepool doctor suspended after taxi drivers 'fit to drive' blunder

.
.

A Hartlepool doctor passed taxi drivers as fit to drive - despite not seeing their medical records.

Bimal Singh, who has worked at North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since 1987, is set to serve a suspension following a tribunal.

He was based at the ORCEL centre, in Wynyard Road, Hartlepool, during the period he was undertaking taxi medicals.

Dr Singh carried out 127 such medicals without checking their medical records, meaning he missed such details as past drug use, mental health problems and excess alcohol drinking.

An investigation was launched by Hartlepool Borough Council and Middlesbrough Council when it came to light that Dr Singh was not viewing drivers' medical histories.

The suspension has not yet begun, but is expected to start in September and last for about a month.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s trading standards and licensing manager, Ian Harrison, said: “As soon as we received intelligence that Dr Singh may have been declaring drivers as fit without seeing their previous medical history, we launched an investigation with Middlesbrough Council who appeared to have been most affected.

"This resulted in a referral being made to the NHS.

“There are obvious risks associated with relying on an individual being honest about their medical history, especially when their job might depend on it.

"To guard against this, Hartlepool Council has always included a requirement for a doctor to see a driver’s medical records before signing them as fit and, therefore, we were extremely
concerned to discover that Dr Singh was saying this had been done when, in fact, it had not.

“Although he was based in Hartlepool, only two of the 127 certificates that Dr Singh gave out actually related to Hartlepool applicants and only one of those had been given a licence.

"To ensure that he was genuinely fit to drive, this driver was immediately required to obtain a further medical certificate from his own GP - which he did.

"No other medical certificates signed by Dr Singh have been accepted."

The tribunal considered mitigating factors, including Dr Singh's immediate apology when concerns were raised, the fact he was open and transparent throughout the investigation, his "deep remorse" and that it was "highly unlikely" he would repeat his actions.

A range of his colleagues also attested to his "integrity, probity and moral character".

However, action was taken as Dr Singh was told that his "misconduct was not simply a mistake, but a recurrent negligent failure on your part which constituted a persistent course of conduct over a period of around nine months.

"Each time you carried out a taxi medical, you had an opportunity to read the guidance and declaration, but you did not do so 127 times, which had potentially serious consequences for
public safety."

In the tribunal's conclusion, Linda Lee, the chair, said: "Having considered all the circumstances, the tribunal was satisfied that the need to maintain public confidence in the profession has been clearly marked by its substantive sanction of the suspension of your registration for a period of one month.

"The tribunal concluded that the imposition of an immediate order would be disproportionate, inappropriate, and unnecessary.

"It is not in the public interest to impose an immediate order of suspension to protect public confidence in the profession pending the substantive order of suspension taking effect.

"The interim order of conditions currently in force will be revoked when written notice of this decision is deemed to have been served upon you.

"The substantive sanction of suspension, as already announced, will take effect 28 days from when written notice is deemed to have been served upon you, unless an appeal is lodged in the interim."