Hospital consultant faces GMC hearing over treatment of elderly patient

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A senior consultant at NHS Shetland has been called to stand before a fitness to practice panel by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Dr Ken Graham will have to defend his fitness to continue as a medical doctor in light of criticism of his treatment of an elderly patient.

Eileen Peterson, 84, died in her care home at Taing House in Lerwick in March 2005 – just five hours after she was released from the Gilbert Bain Hospital.

She had been prescribed antibiotics to treat a suspected urinary tract infection, however a post-mortem examination revealed she died of pneumonia.

Dr Graham, who started as medical director in 2006, stood down from the post in August. His decision to leave is not linked in any way with Mrs Peterson’s death. He continues as a consultant physician at the Gilbert Bain Hospital.

On leaving his post he was replaced, temporarily, by Dr Jim Unsworth. Dr Unsworth is expected to continue in the position until March next year. He is partner to director of public health, Dr Sarah Taylor.

Shetland Health Board was cleared of any blame for Mrs Peterson’s death following a Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) in 2007.

Then, Sheriff Principal Sir Stephen Young QC ruled hospital and care staff could not be held responsible for her death.

However her son Michael complained to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, which launched a two-year inquiry.

Last year ombudsman Jim Martin largely upheld Mr Peterson’s complaint.

He ruled reasons for prescribing certain medications were unclear, and that staff failed to adequately assess and record treatment and care requirements. His report said that Mrs Peterson was released too early from hospital.

After that NHS Shetland apologised to Mrs Peterson’s family for the care she had received.

Following the ruling, however, Mr Peterson called for Dr Graham to resign and criticised the findings of the FAI.

However Mr Peterson told The Shetland Times: “The Sheriff Principal’s partisan handling of the fatal accident inquiry, and his grotesque determination, left my sister and I with little alternative but to pursue other avenues to expose the health board’s failure to investigate and appropriately treat our late mother’s condition – first through the Care Commission and then through the Ombudsman.

“Both bodies vindicated our view that the board’s treatment of our mother was grossly negligent, and the GMC has now satisfied itself that the consultant responsible must appear before its fitness to practice panel. We obviously welcome this development.”

Dr Taylor said she could not comment on individual cases. Dr Graham is currently understood to be on leave.

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About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor is a reporter at The Shetland Times

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