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Grieving mum's anger as doctor avoids being struck off
THE heartbroken mother of a boy who died after doctors failed to diagnose his meningitis has criticised a decision not to strike off the consultant warned over his care of her son.
Dr Malik Alam was found guilty of a string of failings in his care of ten-year-old William Cressey, of Croft, near Darlington, who died in 2005.
These failings amounted to what a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) panel called "serious misconduct”.
Despite this, the panel today (October 19) ruled that Dr Alam’s fitness to practise was not impaired, at the end of a week-long hearing in Manchester.
William’s distraught mother, Cheryl, called the decision a disgrace.
An emotional Mrs Cressey said: “I am heartbroken, I cannot believe what they [the panel] have done.
“It is disgusting, how can they find someone guilty of so many failings, yet still say he is fit to practise?”
Mrs Cressey said the ruling made a mockery of health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to root out incompetent doctors, announced today.
William was admitted to Darlington Memorial Hospital (DMH) in February 2005, complaining of a severe headache and stiff neck, but sent home after doctors diagnosed a migraine.
In hearings held earlier this year, the panel found Dr Alam was guilty of a string of failings, including not properly examining William and delaying the administration of potentially life-saving antibiotics.
Today, the three-person MPTS panel ruled that Dr Alam had been guilty of “serious misconduct” in his care of William, but said it was satisfied he had addressed those failings.
Although Dr Alam retired from his position at DMH in February, after a 26-year career, the panel issued him with a warning, saying his treatment of William did not meet the standards required of a doctor and risked bringing the profession into disrepute.
The warning will stay on his record for five years.
Mrs Cressey said she found it difficult to accept the decision of the MPTS, part of the General Medical Council (GMC).
She said: “The GMC has failed in its duty of care to protect the public. It is not fit for purpose and puts too much importance into protecting medics and does not give enough consideration to the lives thrown away by neglect.”
Panel chairwoman Fiona Barnett said: “The panel has determined that there were a number of breaches of good medical practise... falling seriously below the standard expected of a consultant paediatrician.
“A sick patient was repeatedly misdiagnosed by yourself and others, and inadequately treated.”
The panel, which referred to William as Patient A throughout the tribunal, heard that changes had been made in the paediatrics department at DMH following his death.
These include an overhaul of staff handover procedures so that consultants coming on shift are responsible for examining patients.
Dr Alam had also made changes in the seven years following William's death, such as devising more thorough care plans for patients.
Announcing the panel’s decision, Mrs Barnett added: “The facts found proved relate to your management of one patient, and not to misconduct extending over a lengthy period of time.
“Your failings have been remedied, you have shown significant insight and you have continued to practise medicine throughout the seven years since these events without further complaints against you.
“Additionally, there were no complaints to the GMC throughout your career prior to the matters involving Patient A.
“The panel is satisfied that a finding of impairment is not necessary to protect the public, as it does not consider that you present such a risk at this time.”
In his final submissions to the panel, Dr Alam said: "First of all, I would like to give my deepest condolences.
"I have been practising for 26 years, I have already retired and I would not like to end my medical career with a warning."
Dr Alam declined to comment further at the conclusion of the hearing.
In relation to Mrs Cressey's comments, a GMC spokeswoman said it did not comment on individual cases.
The conclusion came just a day after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that doctors' skills are to be reassessed every year in a bid to ensure they are still fit to practise.
At present, there are no formal procedures for testing a doctor's competence.
The new rules come into effect next month.