Epilepsy Case Doctor Loses Appeal

A doctor accused of misdiagnosing hundreds of children with epilepsy has lost a legal challenge after his work was labelled “seriously deficient”. Dr Andrew Holton gave wrong diagnoses of epilepsy to 618 children in Leicestershire between 1990 and 2001. The General Medical Council (GMC) ruled his professional performance was deficient and imposed conditions on his registration earlier this year. The High Court has ruled that some of the conditions should be changed.

Dr Holton had taken his appeal to the High Court claiming the ruling was unfair. He was suspended by the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in May 2001. In January 2006 the GMC’s Fitness to Practise Panel ruled the consultant paediatrician should be retrained, have regular checks by superiors, should not work with children and should work in a new speciality.

Mr Justice Stanley Burnton said the panel were “entitled” to “come to a general conclusion that Dr Holton’s professional performance had been seriously deficient”, and dismissed the appeal. The GMC had “tied” Dr Holton to the West Midlands area, and also restricted his work in his new field of practice, which although still in paediatrics, was not linked to epilepsy. But Mr Justice Burnton accepted that Dr Holton had “recognised and acknowledged” the seriousness of the findings against him and “would now act differently”.

New conditions relating to the where Dr Holton can work, and in what fields, will now be drawn up by the judge after receiving written arguments from barristers. The judge added: “I should say that nothing in this judgement should be seen as casting doubt on the assessors, and indeed the panel’s, description of Dr Holton as a committed, hard-working, highly intelligent and qualified professional.”