Taylor v General Medical Council (Queen's Bench Division – Administrative Court)
This case reiterates that the weight to be placed on a particular witness' evidence is a matter for the professional Tribunal to judge.
The Registrant, a general practitioner, was found to have breached prescribing guidelines by prescribing a drug to a patient with bipolar disorder without referring the patient to a psychiatrist. After the Registrant had prescribed the drugs, the patient reported that he was still experiencing very low moods. Despite the patient's further admission, the Registrant failed to increase the patient's dose. The patient then took his own life. The matter was subsequently referred to the GMC by the coroner.
The Tribunal determined that the Registrant had failed to record his reasoning for prescribing the drug and had failed to refer the patient to a psychiatrist. Although the Registrant's clinical practice was not flawed, the Tribunal held that it had fallen seriously below the standards expected of a general practitioner. The Tribunal held that the Registrant had prescribed a drug outside the prescribing guidelines and decided to issue a warning against the Registrant's registration.
The Registrant applied for permission to appeal against the Tribunal's finding. The Registrant submitted that the Tribunal's decision was without evidence and was 'Wednesbury unreasonable' (i.e. no reasonable person acting reasonably could have made it, Associated Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corporation (1948) 1 KB 223). Furthermore, the Registrant argued that the Tribunal had given insufficient weight to the expert witness, who stated that the Registrant's conduct had been appropriate. The Registrant maintained that the Tribunal's decision was wrong as his conduct had not fallen below the expected standard.
Garnham J rejected the Registrant's submissions, stating that the Tribunal had considered the prescribing guidelines, expert evidence and the facts of the case. It was further held that the Registrant should have referred the patient to a specialist psychiatrist. It was noted that the expert evidence that the Registrant had relied on had not been from a doctor. Garnham J said that it was a matter for a Tribunal, especially a professional Tribunal, to decide the weight to be given to a particular witness. The GMC's guidance also stated that a Tribunal could impose a warning in the absence of impairment, but where practice had fallen below the expected standard of a general practitioner.