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Doctors' Disciplinaries: Right to a Fair Trial

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[Thanks to Simon Oakes of Outer Temple Chambers for preparing this case summary]

Is the process of dismissing a doctor a determination of his civil rights, so as to entitle him to an independent and impartial tribunal under Article 6? Maybe, but not here, held the High Court in the case of Mattu v University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust

The Claimant, a consultant employed by an NHS Trust, was seeking to set aside his dismissal, citing breach of contract during the dismissal and appeal; that claim was dismissed. 

Of more general interest was the Claimant's contention that his Article 6 rights were engaged because the dismissal (by a public body) prevented him practising his profession. He argued that dismissal would have the same effect as striking him off the medical register, or barring him from employment in a monopoly provider: the NHS. 

The Court disagreed, holding that GMC proceedings would not be affected, and that he could still practise privately, or elsewhere within the NHS. At worst, the Claimant's ability to remain in his current employment was affected. But unlike the right to practise one's profession, doing a particular job is not a civil right, and is not protected by Article 6. 

The Court added that deciding whether an individual is dismissed is not the same as determining their reputation, and again, Article 6 was not engaged. 

The Court stated, however, that the dismissal by the Trust's chief executive, of a trust employee, would not meet the requirements of independence and impartiality required by Article 6. That problem could be cured by a sufficiently independent and impartial Appeal panel.