NHS doctors and dentists now allowed legal representation

NHS doctors and dentists will be allowed to have legal representation at internal disciplinary hearings after a landmark decision in the Court of Appeal.

In Kulkarni v Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Trust, the Court of Appeal decided that doctors and dentists employed by the health service were entitled to legal representation in cases where the individual faced a charge which, if proved, could prevent them from practicising their profession.

Dr Kulkarni, a junior doctor at Milton Keynes, was initially denied legal representation after the Trust launched an investigation into allegations he examined a female patient inappropriately. The Court of Appeal ruled he should be allowed representation, which will have significant ramifications for the NHS as the vast majority of employers have adopted 2005 Department of Health guidelines to remove doctors’ rights to representation.

Iain Patterson, employment partner at Browne Jacobson law firm, said: “This case breaks new ground and effectively reintroduces a right that was removed from doctors’ standard terms and conditions back in 2005.

“HR professionals and senior managers will need to take a long look at their policies and the manner in which they manage internal disciplinary proceedings as a result of this decision.”

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