Removing links to MPTS decisions could be very challenging. Our client, Dr J B was a doctor working in a specialist hospital, dealing with particularly vulnerable patients. Following a misjudgement he had made in connection with after-care advice to a patient, he had appeared before the Medical practitioners tribunal.
The original Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service Decision
Dr J. B., when appearing before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) had accepted responsibility for his action. Surprisingly, he was suspended from practice for a period of 3 years.
He subsequently appealed the decision. His misjudgement was a one-off incident which had been caused by a number of accumulating factors, chiefly outside of his control. Eventually his appeal was partly allowed and his suspension had become conditional.
The Consequences of the publication on the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service website
In the meantime, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service had published its original suspending decision and that decision was reported by a local newspaper and was also copied by a number of websites. The impact of the publications on Dr J. B.’s ability to work was dramatic. He had been effectively blacklisted on an online medical advice forum to which he used to contribute, and this was easily accessed by anyone who used Google to search for his name.
He attempted on a number of occasions to have the information removed from the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service website, from the online newspapers and from the online forum but largely to no avail.
Reluctantly he had come to the conclusion that it was impossible to have this information removed, particularly because it related to his profession. Some refusals cited “public interest” as the reason for continuing to publish details of his original sanction.
Removing details of Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service decision
Following a number of s10 Data Protection Act (now this will be done as a right to be forgotten GDPR Notice) applications, our specialist Data Protection and Regulatory Bodies' lawyers managed to remove all the references to the original sanction by the MPTS. In nearly all cases the entire article was deleted. In the case of the local newspaper publication, there was also a personal appeal to the editor which this time had produced the desired outcome.
Lawyer's thoughts on the case
Whilst there is a public interest argument for having disciplinary decisions made public, there is always an element of discretion for the regulatory body in deciding what to publish and for how long. Each case has to be considered on its own merits, which means that the regulatory body cannot simply refuse a request to have a decision de-published without giving it a serious consideration, based on each individual’s case. There is certainly scope for success for applications under a Right to be forgotten for professional people.
Furthermore, some newspaper editors would be willing to delete news articles about a disciplinary decision, particularly if you can show them that decision was de-published by that body. Finally, public interest argument does not necessarily mean that the information has to be available on Google.
It is very possible for the MPTS to block Google from finding specific pages so as to prevent the medical practitioner from having his disciplinary outcome to be found by people who search up for his name for reasons other than to check on his disciplinary record. Anyone who wants to search for a doctor’s disciplinary record can still do this directly from the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service website.