A doctor who knocked out a medical report for personal injury claimants every 15 minutes has been struck off by the Court of Appeal.
In General Medical Council & Ors v Zafar Lord Justice Davis ruled that Dr Asef Zafar made false witness statements for personal injury claims and exploited his position to cover up long-running misconduct.
Zafar developed a system – ‘remarkably’, noted the judge – to examine clients and write a report within 15 minutes. This meant he produced 5,000 reports a year, generating a gross annual income of £350,000. The judge heard this operation, which lasted for 12 years, was described as a ‘report writing factory’, and the judge added: ‘Quite how he was able to fit all this around his NHS responsibilities is not clear’.
The decision was made this week following a protracted and complex string of cases.
Civil contempt proceedings were brought by insurer LV over allegations of fraud, with Mr Justice Garnham finding 10 grounds proved against Zafar and sentencing him to six months in prison, suspended for two years. The Court of Appeal indicated the sentence should probably have been 12 months and was unduly lenient, but said its judgment could only be used as guidance. The doctor’s sentence was not increased.
Meanwhile, proceedings had commenced against Zafar in the Medical Practitioners Tribunal and came before a hearing last May. The reported decision of the Court of Appeal was not put before the tribunal, which was presented with only with the initial fraud judgment.
Lord Justice Davis said that ‘at first sight and indeed at second sight that seems extraordinary’. The tribunal proceeded without seeing the harsher assessment of Zafar’s conduct and determined that erasure would be disproportionate, opting to suspend him for a year.
Appealing that decision, the General Medical Council said the sanction of suspension was ‘not tenable’. Zafar’s lawyer submitted that the Court of Appeal decision was not relevant evidence or relevant material at all, and had rightly not been put before the tribunal.
Davis described an ‘air of unreality’ about much of the debate and said Zafar’s arguments were ‘wholly unsustainable’. The Court of Appeal judgment was formally admitted as evidence.
The judge said the only proper sanction was erasure, with any lesser sanction failing to reflect the gravity of the misconduct.