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GBH consultant faces GMC hearing

A SENIOR consultant at the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick has been called to appear before a fitness to practice panel by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Dr Ken Graham has been told he must appear before the GMC to defend his fitness to continue practising as a medical doctor following criticism of his treatment of 84 year old Eileen Peterson.

NHS Shetland has already been forced to apologise to Mrs Peterson’s family who died in Taing House care home, Lerwick, just five hours after being released from hospital on 9 March 2005.

A post mortem recorded she had died from pneumonia, however the hospital had failed to diagnose the illness, instead prescribing antibiotics for a suspected urinary tract infection.

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into her death under Sheriff Principal Sir Stephen Young in June 2007 absolved the health board of any responsibility for Mrs Peterson’s death. Shortly afterwards Dr Graham was appointed medical director of NHS Shetland.

However two years later the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO) reviewed the case and found the hospital had failed Mrs Peterson on four counts – by discharging her too early, not giving her sufficient fluids during her brief stay in hospital, failing to keep adequate records of her care and providing unclear reasons for her medication.

The SPSO insisted the health board write a letter of apology to Mrs Peterson’s family over her treatment. Previously the health board had refused to respond to the family’s complaint, saying it fell outside their complaints procedure because it came more than 12 months after her death.

Following the SPSO report, Mrs Peterson’s son Michael called for Dr Graham’s resignation. He also reported Dr Graham to the GMC who carried out their own investigation into Mrs Peterson’s death.

He alleged that the treatment his mother received was substandard, that the medical records were inadequate and that Dr Graham’s testimony given to the FAI was dishonest and designed to mislead.

The GMC has now written to Mr Peterson telling him that they have sufficient concern about his mother’s treatment to call Dr Graham before a fitness to practice panel. The hearing is likely to take place next spring.

Mr Peterson said on Wednesday that the family welcomed the GMC’s involvement in their mother’s case.

NHS Shetland confirmed that Dr Graham stepped down as medical director in August. His position has been taken by Dr Jim Unsworth on a temporary basis.

The consultant physician is currently abroad on holiday and was unavailable for comment.