GP 'positive' after High Court hearing

A TROUBLED doctor who had an affair with a patient said he was feeling "positive" following High Court action that could still see him struck off the medical register.

A TROUBLED doctor who had an affair with a patient said he was feeling "positive" following High Court action that could still see him struck off the medical register.

Dr Michael Leeper, 49, appeared before Mr Justice Collins at the High Court yesterday for proceedings brought against him by the Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals (CRHP).

It initiated the action against the Suffolk GP because it feels he was treated too leniently when he appeared before the General Medical Council (GMC) earlier this year.

At a hearing in February, Dr Leeper admitted serious professional misconduct by having a periodic 11-month affair with a female patient known only as Miss A.

The GMC's Professional Conduct committee ordered the doctor to work under supervision for a period of two years. But the CRHP said the order was too lenient and the doctor should have been erased from the medical register.

During yesterday's hearing it was heard how the affair took place between March 2002 and February 2003.

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John Howell, QC, representing the CRHP, told how Miss A saw Dr Leeper at his Stonehall Surgery in Clare on several occasions in the months preceding the affair.

He said: "They had long chats about her emotional and marital problems. Miss A was a particularly vulnerable patient whose feelings were in turmoil."

He went on to explain how the affair happened in two phrases, firstly between March and May 2002 and then again from December 2002 and February 2003.

Mr Howell told the court how Dr Leeper instigated the relationship and that Miss A tried to end it. He claimed she was sucked back into the relationship due to the doctor's persistence.

Mr Howell said: "He pursued Miss A on more than one occasion to satisfy his own emotional need and did not act in the best interest of the patient.

"Miss A suffered substantial distress as the affair progressed, leading to a feeling of being trapped, guilt and thus depression."

He went on to say that due to the seriousness of Dr Leeper's misconduct the GMC's decision was unduly lenient.

"The circumstances were such that only erasure was appropriate in this case.

"The GMC's own sanctions makes plain erasure has been judged the appropriate sanction when a doctor's sexual misconduct involves an abuse of trust, particularly involving vulnerable patients," said Mr Howell.

Roger Henderson, QC, representing the GMC, said the body stood by its decision that was in the best interest of the public.

Referring to Dr Leeper, he said: "He was took to the borders of erasure and the loss of his livelihood.

"The alternative of suspension had been raised but he could still be suspended or erased when his conduct is reviewed in two years, it is a possibility that still hangs over him.

"The GMC feels that erasure in this case is not in the best interest as it would deny the public of a particularly competent doctor.

"It also considered the number and quality of excellent testimonies he had received from patients, doctors and nurses.

"He also did not practice a year before the GMC hearing, so effectively has already been suspended.

"The GMC feels its decision is in the best interest of the both the public and the doctor."

Mr Justice Collins decided to reserve judgement on the case but said he did not accept the affair was one-sided.

"There is no way of telling if the doctor did all the running, these type of relationships are usually two way things," he said.

He didn't indicate which way his verdict would go, but he did say: "I'm not going to rule that all sexual misconduct cases must lead to erasure on every occasion, that would be going too far."

Dr Leeper, who lives in Hundon and has served the community of Clare since the 1980s, said: "I'm feeling positive about the outcome and I hope I can get back to serving my patients as soon as possible."

Although Dr Leeper was not struck off by the GMC, his former partners at the Sudbury-based Hardwicke House Surgery had already expelled him from his Stonehall practice in Clare.

Judgement on the case is expected by September.

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