The Court of Appeal has recently announced a decision in the case of West London Mental Health NHS Trust v Chhabra, that the Courts should only intervene in a Trust’s decision to convene a disciplinary hearing for a doctor in very limited circumstances.

The facts of the case were that a doctor was accused of misconduct, following a train journey, during which it was alleged that the doctor had breached a patient’s confidentiality. The Trust investigated the allegation and a case manager for the Trust decided that the allegation of misconduct should be referred to a disciplinary panel, which would have the option of dismissing the doctor.

The doctor brought proceedings in the High Court and successfully obtained an injunction to prevent the Trust from proceeding with the disciplinary hearing, alleging that the Trust had breached the doctor’s contract, by following the wrong procedures. The doctor asserted that the Trust should have treated the matter less seriously and should have followed a different procedure, which would then result in a less serious sanction.

Trust entitled to exercise own judgment

The Court of Appeal unanimously allowed the Trust’s appeal against the injunction and decided that the Trust were entitled to exercise their judgment as to if the alleged misconduct was serious enough to require a disciplinary panel and that given the facts of this allegation the Trust’s actions were justified.

This case is likely to impact on future Trust Investigations against doctors. Following the judgment in this case, Trusts will know that the Courts are very unlikely to grant an injunction to prevent a Trust from convening a disciplinary hearing, providing they have followed their own procedures appropriately. This may well have an impact on Trusts, giving them more confidence to convene disciplinary panels, providing that they can justify that they have appropriately followed their own procedures.