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Fitness to practise - CS101905

A final-year medical student shared with the provider that they were seeing a psychotherapist for help with complex mental health issues. The provider was made aware of concerns about the student’s fitness for practise, related to a breach of patient boundaries, and drug use. The student interrupted their studies. After a year, the student presented evidence that their mental health had improved and asked to be able to sit their final exams.

The provider held a fitness to practise panel hearing when the student returned. The panel decided that the student needed more time to show that they were fit for practise. The panel decided that the student should repeat all of the final year, not just sit the exams. The panel agreed to monitor the situation and hold another meeting after six months which would consider more evidence including the results of random drug tests and testimonials from clinical supervisors.

The student appealed this decision on the basis that there were mistakes in the process used, and that the decision was discriminatory. The provider held an appeal panel, which identified a procedural error but decided that the mistake had not affected the overall decision. The appeal panel had the authority to vary the finding of the fitness to practise panel’s decision, and it provided additional guidance on what should be considered at the next fitness to practise panel hearing.

At the next fitness to practise hearing, the provider decided that the student was fit. The student subsequently passed their exams and achieved their qualification.

The student complained to us that the procedural error at the first panel hearing might have affected the decision made. They asked for significant financial compensation for distress, and for the costs of completing an additional year of study.

We concluded that the complaint was Not Justified. The first panel should have asked for a referral from an Occupational Health specialist. However, the appeal panel’s decision acknowledged this error and explained why it would not have been possible to allow the student to complete the course more quickly, even if an occupational health referral had been made, taking into account all of the other evidence. The professional judgment of the panel was that the student needed time to show good conduct for a significant period while in a clinical environment. We decided this was reasonable.