Hospital Dr News

MPTS heavily criticised over decision not to strike off cardiologist

A decision not to strike a doctor off the medical register after downloading indecent images of children at work has been widely criticised.

Dr Steven Burn, a consultant cardiologist, was arrested after IT staff found 65 illegal images of children on his work computer.

Burn was sacked from his post at Royal Derby Hospital for gross misconduct in June, however he was not struck off by the Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal Service.

Instead, he was handed a 12 month suspension after pleading with the panel for another chance, telling them he would “rather die than re-offend”. He claimed he had been driven to search for the indecent images by the stress of work.

Niall Dickson, CEO of the GMC, commented: “We strongly disagree with the decision reached by the panel in the case of Dr Steven Burn. We had called for this doctor to be struck off the medical register and we will do what we can to have the decision changed.

“We believe it is essential that patients can have confidence in the doctors that care for them, and behaviour of this kind cannot be tolerated. To be fair I am sure the vast majority of doctors would agree.

“We have contacted the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), the authority responsible for overseeing the UK’s healthcare professional regulatory bodies, to ask them to consider referring the case to the High Court and indicating that we would support such an appeal.

The decision was criticised more widely. Chief Constable Mick Creedon from Derbyshire police said he could not believe the decision, describing it as “lame, flawed and ill-judged”. Writing to his 1,900 officers on the force’s internal website, the Chief Constable described Burns as “another perverted middle-aged man with no moral compass”.

He suggested it was an example of doctors protecting doctors. “His offending is repulsive, he has let himself down and betrayed trust and his employers have rightly sought to end his professional career. Despite this his own professional body has closed ranks and decided that he can continue to ignore the values and standards we expect of others, and they silently endorse the continued abuse of those who are vulnerable, often unable to speak for themselves and who we and society seek to protect,” he said.

Hearings for doctors who breach GMC standards are run by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) which was launched in 2012. MPTS hearings are independent from the investigatory role performed by the GMC.

From next year, the law will change and the GMC will have the right to appeal MPTS decisions. “That day cannot come soon enough,” said Dickson.

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