GP convicted of drink driving near schoolchildren escapes ban

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A DOCTOR who drank half a bottle of vodka before crashing his car near children leaving school has escaped being struck off.

Brian Christopher O’Neill was three times over the limit at the time of the accident in September 2011.

The GP from North Lanarkshire also committed a string of medical blunders including failing to spot that a baby had a serious  heart defect.

A Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing in Manchester found 17 charges against Dr O’Neill, 50, proved.

But after telling the MPTS he was aware of his failings and trying to address them, the watchdog said he could carry on working under supervision.

Patients’ groups yesterday said the doctor – who was banned from driving by the courts for two years – should have been suspended.

 

Vodka

The doctor worked at Waverley Medical Practice, Coatbridge, at the time of the incidents.

MPTS panel chairman David Kyle told Dr O’Neill: “By your own account, you were driving at 3.30pm in the afternoon and had the accident when school children were around.”

He said the panel had been told: “It was your choice to drink half a bottle of vodka and then drive your car.

“A conviction for driving when three times over the prescribed alcohol limit is serious and brings the profession into disrepute.”

Parts of the tribunal – including mitigating factors relating to the drink driving offence – were heard in private.

Mr Kyle said the incident happened at “particularly difficult time” in the doctor’s life, but the reasons for this were not revealed.

He continued: “Members of the public, knowing the level of your insight… and the limited risk of repetition, would be unlikely to conclude that the damage to the reputation of the profession brought about by your conviction should be seen to endure today.”

The doctor was also found to have failed to tell medical watchdogs about his drink drive conviction, despite strict rules of conduct requiring him to do so.

 

Competent

The doctor was also found to have inadequately assessed a baby boy, named only as Patient C, who later was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare heart condition.

Mr Kyle said: “Patient C’s mother believed him to be consistently off colour, blue or greyish and his appearance and development was to her noticeably different to that of his twin sister.

“She gave evidence that she asked Dr O’Neill what she should do if her baby turned blue.

“His response, she said, was to suggest that the baby might be cold and to advise that if he went blue she should wrap him up in warmer clothing.”

The doctor should have considered further investigation after his examination of the baby in February 2010, he said.

Dr O’Neill also inappropriately prescribed medication for six patients suffering from depression and inappropriately prescribed a steroid as an appetite stimulant, the panel found.

A colleague at Waverley Medical Practice described him as a “very competent practitioner”.

 

Suspension

The doctor, who has not worked as a GP since 2010, told the panel he had “genuine insight” into his actions and was attempting to remediate them.

He was given a 36-month long order which says he must cease work immediately if his supervisor tells him to.

But Margaret Watt, chairwoman of Scotland Patients Association, questioned the outcome.

She said: “He should know not to get behind the wheel of a car while he’s got alcohol in him.

“It’s not harsh to say there should be a suspension.

“He should be taken out and retrained and revalidated – it’s for his own safety as well as his patients.”

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m not surprised. I have worked in the healthcare sector for years and am astounded how often medical staff manage to hover somewhere above the legal parameters the rest of the sector have to work within.

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