East Anglia: Doctor took HIV-infected blood phial onto plane

A CONSULTANT lost his job at a hospital after carrying a sample of HIV-infected blood in his hand luggage while flying from Africa to the UK, a High Court judge heard.

Tubonye Harry – a genito-urinary specialist at James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston – was returning from Nigeria where he did private work, Mr Justice Burnett was told.

The sample should have been packed in the aircraft’s hold and Dr Harry had breached regulations designed to prevent passengers being exposed to infection.

Details emerged as Mr Justice Burnett ruled on a dispute between Dr Harry and the General Medical Council – which registers doctors.

Dr Harry, who also faced other allegations relating to his work, was suspended pending the outcome of GMC disciplinary proceedings, the judge was told. But he argued the GMC’s 18-month interim suspension was unfair – and the judge agreed.

Mr Justice Burnett terminated the suspension, which prevented Harry from seeking alternative work, saying it was “disproportionate”.

Dr Harry qualified as a doctor in 1979 and had been a consultant since 1996. He carried the infected blood from Nigeria in 2010 and lost his job at the JPH in January.

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“The transportation of human blood is governed by strict regulations,’’ said Mr Justice Burnett.

“On a return journey from Nigeria in December 2010, Dr Harry accepted that he carried two samples of blood, one infected with HIV, in his hand luggage. He said that they were appropriately packed in accordance with the regulations, but agreed that the regulations required them to go in the hold. He said that he had been unaware of this.”

The judge said Dr Harry had also been accused of failing to “properly insulate’’ NHS work from private work. He said it was also alleged that, when confronted with a suggestion that he was using NHS resources for private patients, Dr Harry asked a member of staff to “amend the paperwork’’.

The judge said Dr Harry had “realised the folly of that course’’ within 30 minutes and “reversed his request’’.

Mr Justice Burnett said the interim orders panel of the GMC had suspended Dr Harry in April. But the suspension was “heavy handed’’.

“In my judgment, there was no real risk to members of the public in Dr Harry’s continuing to practise,’’ said Mr Justice Burnett.