Parents are outraged as epilepsy doctor appeals

Incorrect epilepsy diagnosis

17.10.2006

A consultant paediatrician accused of providing incorrect epilepsy diagnosis for hundreds of children has launched a legal challenge over the General Medical Council's finding that his work was "seriously deficient".

Parents of children who were patients of Dr Andrew Holton said they were "outraged" by his appeal to the High Court in London.

Their lawyers complained that they had been "marginalised and forgotten" in the disciplinary process.
Dr Holton was suspended by the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in May 2001.

In January 2006 the GMC's Fitness to Practise Panel ruled that his professional performance was seriously deficient, but allowed him to continue working under certain restrictions lasting for three years.

These included re-training, regular checks by superiors, regular reporting to the GMC, not working with children and working in a new speciality.

Parents were furious that he had not been struck off.
Today, lawyers for Dr Holton, who was first appointed to the Leicester Royal Infirmary as a consultant paediatrician with a special interest in neurology in October 1990, asked a High Court judge to rule that the GMC decision was unfair and unlawful.

His counsel, Mary O'Rourke, argued that the Panel which heard his case "lacked competence" and went against the advice of experienced medical assessors.

She told Mr Justice Stanley Burnton: "The assessors were entirely appropriate to consider the issues.

"They had the experience, expertise and professional qualifications and the field practice to allow them to appreciate the circumstances in which Dr Holton was working."

Ms O'Rourke argued there was no proper evidential basis to support the Panel's statement that Dr Holton had made frequent serious errors justifying disciplinary action.

The hearing is expected to last two days.

The GMC is opposing Dr Holton's appeal, pointing to the "considerable public disquiet" over what was perceived as his "over diagnosing" of epilepsy in young children.

The GMC also rejects criticism over the severity of the conditions imposed on Dr Holton, arguing that they were far from onerous, and he was in any event re-training as a specialist registrar in neurophysiology.

Richard Follis of Irwin Mitchell, representing the Leicester Epilepsy Concern Parents and Carers' Group (LECPCG) said before the High Court hearing: "My clients are understandably outraged and upset that Dr Holton has brought an appeal against the GMC decision, which they regarded as the mildest of slaps on the wrist as they believe it placed limited and minor restrictions on his practice.

"It is a source of considerable anxiety that he is appealing against the GMC ruling.

"Because my clients have no standing in this appeal process, they feel marginalised and forgotten by the GMC system, which is supposed to exist to protect their rights and their safety."

Wrong epilepsy diagnosis

Mary Peberdy, a representative of the LECPCG said: "We are shocked and dismayed to learn of Holton's appeal.

"We believe our children have been permanently damaged as a result of Holton's actions and treatment as a doctor.

"We feel completely left out of this process and marginalised by the GMC. Who will protect our rights as patients, if not the GMC?"

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