NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

GP Martin Thom suspended for punching patient in Fraserburgh

Dr Martin Thom Image copyright Cavendish Press
Image caption The tribunal heard Dr Martin Thom acted out of character

A GP who punched an aggressive patient has been suspended.

Dr Martin Thom was called to treat a man who had collapsed in the street in Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, in May last year because an ambulance was not available.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service was told the doctor had been shoved and punched before he hit out.

Dr Thom's registration was suspended for two months. He was previously fined £360 in court after admitting assault.

The ruling said the GP had found the 25-year-old apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Dr Thom said he "felt threatened" in a situation over which he had no control or support.

He said the patient approached him and shoved him before punching him three times to the head.

The GP said he tried to defend himself by pushing the patient, causing him to bang his head against a wall. He then punched him twice.

He had no recollection of punching the patient, but accepted he did.

'Inner chimp'

The doctor's actions were said to be out of character and he had cited workload pressures.

The tribunal report said: "You accepted that you should have ensured your own safety by withdrawing, but rather you acted disproportionately and assaulted the patient for which you apologised.

"You stated that 'it was unprofessional and completely unacceptable behaviour for which I accept responsibility'.

"You set out the learning points from this situation and stated that you had learned from your attendance at counselling and courses the correct way to handle such a situation so that you do not repeat your actions."

It stated: "You referred to your attendance at a NHS Grampian Management of Workplace Violence and Aggression course which you said had taught you valuable skills in recognising the first signs of aggression and strategies to avoid the situation you found yourself in that day.

"You said that in order for you to remain a valuable member of the profession you must find ways of coping with the stressful job of being a GP by learning appropriate and proportionate coping strategies and you set out details of the courses, counselling and reading you had undertaken with this aim in mind.

"You had been particularly influenced by reading Professor Steve Peters' 'The Chimp Paradox' and recognised that you were responsible for the actions of your 'inner chimp'.

Public confidence

The GP had previously been fined £360 at Peterhead Sheriff Court in November after admitting assault.

The ruling said: "The tribunal has taken the view that your registration should be suspended for a period of two months.

"It considers that this period is the minimum required to address the public interest in upholding standards and maintaining confidence in the profession, while also minimising the disadvantage which will arise to your colleagues and those in the local community where you work.

"You have demonstrated that you fully appreciate the gravity of what occurred."

The Saltoun Surgery, where Dr Thom works, said Dr Thom had been on-call and was asked to attend the scene.

The surgery added: "There is a lack of GPs willing to come to work in Fraserburgh and in rural and remote areas in general.

"There is a national shortage of GPs, which is not a new problem.

"We had no response to a recent national advert for GP in BMJ. We are training one of our nurses to become a nurse prescriber in an effort to meet ongoing demand."

An NHS Grampian spokesman said: "We note the decision of the MPTS and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

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