GP cleared of misconduct following patient's death hours after appointment at surgery

A Wigan GP who saw a patient just hours before she died has been cleared of misconduct by a medical tribunal.

By Gaynor Clarke
Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 3:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 4:45 pm

Dr Rebekah Mason, who works at Parbold Surgery, faced allegations about what happened during a consultation with the female patient and changes made to records of the appointment.

But a medical practitioners’ tribunal in Manchester has now found most of the allegations were not proven and Dr Mason’s actions did not amount to misconduct.

The tribunal decided not to issue a warning as it found “no significant departure from good medical practice”.

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Patient A had not seen a doctor for more than 40 years due to a phobia, but her partner Andrew Purcell made the appointment as she had been coughing for months and her breathing was laboured.

Dr Mason diagnosed a chest infection and prescribed antibiotics and an inhaler.

But Patient A’s condition deteriorated during the day and she was rushed to hospital by ambulance, but she died at 1.45am the next day.

Mr Purcell made a complaint, which triggered an investigation by the General Medical Council.

He had accompanied Patient A to the appointment with Dr Mason and had concerns about what happened.

His allegations included that she failed to properly carry out an oxygen saturation test, did not explain the importance of a blood pressure test and did not provide safety advice in case Patient A’s condition worsened.

The tribunal had been told that whether Dr Mason’s conduct fell below the standard expected depended on whether members accepted Mr Purcell’s account of that consultation or Dr Mason’s account. Concerns were also raised about Dr Mason changing records of the appointment after learning of Patient A’s death.

She said this was to make the notes clearer and she was aware the changes would be tracked, but now understood she should have made a new entry.

The tribunal found that “although the amendments were not contemporaneous, it did not make them dishonest”.

Dr Mason had admitted some of the allegations made, including that she failed to record any numerical values for Patient A’s oxygen saturation levels; said she had provided safety netting advice in the record of the consultation; and that she made some amendments to the record later.

The tribunal found she made changes to the record after Patient A’s death, but all other allegations made were not proven.

Members preferred her account of what happened and it was found her fitness to practise was not impaired.

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