Dr James Ip, who lives in a £1.7million home in west London, was found to have acted dishonestly in a case brought against him by Britain’s medical regulator
A leading paediatrician has been suspended from his NHS job for six months for using his wife’s free TfL travel pass.
Dr James Ip, who lives in a £1.7million home in west London, was found to have acted dishonestly in a case brought against him by Britain’s medical regulator.
The General Medical Council (GMC) claimed his actions risked undermining public confidence in the profession.
But the decision sparked fury among medics, who called it disproportionate given no patients were put at risk from Dr Ip’s actions.
Commentators said the GMC was harming patients by taking a hardworking medic out of the NHS while the health service wrestles with record backlogs in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
Dr Ip, who is in his mid-40s, works as a consultant paediatric cardiac anaesthetist at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals.
He originally qualified in London almost 20 years ago.
Dr James Ip is employed as a consultant paediatric cardiac anaesthetist at Great Ormond Street Hospital as one of Britain’s – and the world’s – leading children’s hospitals
Dr Ip was caught using his wife’s travel pass by a Transport for London (TfL) ticket inspector at Hammersmith Station on February 7 last year.
He also admitted to using the card, which entitled his wife to free travel, on 54 other occasions between 13 December 2021 and 4 February 2022.
It is not clear why his wife, who was not named in the tribunal’s report, was given a free travel pass.
Dr Ip admitted entering a compulsory ticket area without a valid ticket in court in July and was convicted and issued a £500 fine.
He was also ordered to pay compensation of £297 and costs.
The GMC, who presented the case for Dr Ip to be suspended to the medical tribunal panel, admitted that his actions didn’t pose a risk to patients, there was no evidence his care was substandard, and that he is a ‘well-respected and a skilled clinician’.
However, they said Dr Ip had acted dishonestly by using an free travel pass that he was not entitled to.
Regulators also raised the alarm because it was not an isolated incident, with it happening over a period of two to three months.
They added that Dr Ip’s actions also represented a significant breach of GMC’s code, which states: ‘You must make sure that your conduct justifies your patient’s trust in you and the public’s trust in the profession.’
In a statement Dr Ip claimed that part of the reason he used the pass was resentment about NHS staff having to pay to use TfL services during the pandemic, but added he now recognised that as wrong.
‘I see now that this rationalisation was illogical, immoral and wrong,’ he wrote in a statement explaining his actions to the tribunal.
‘I recognise that fare evasion is a form of theft and free loading from other passengers and there was no excuse for not paying for my tickets.
‘I have since admitted my wrongdoing and apologised to Transport for London for my conduct.’
But the GMC noted the dates given for using the card were after Covid lockdowns had been lifted.
They also noted his admission that over half of the 55 journeys related to his private practice or personal journeys, not his work at GOSH.
The tribunal sided with the GMC, noting that Dr Ip’s action represented a course of sustained dishonesty and, given the dates, they were unable to accept his account for his actions.
‘On each occasion the tribunal determined that Dr Ip must have known that what he was doing was wrong, but he did not stop until he was caught,’ they said.
His ‘dishonest’ behaviour was brought to light by a TfL ticket inspector at Hammersmith Station in February last year
The GMC’s decision promoted outrage and ridicule from other medics, such as Dr David Nicholl
But others, like Dr Joel Giblett, said medics said the sanction made sense as the dishonesty was over a longer period of time
In terms of mitigation, the panel noted that Dr Ip had admitted the behaviour at the earliest opportunity, had engaged with the GMC, and expressed remorse and some insight regarding his actions.
But they ruled that, on balance, a six-month suspension was the most appropriate and proportionate sanction to issue.
‘He has breached one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession by acting dishonestly,’ they wrote.
The ruling was made by Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service which makes independent decisions on regulatory matters for British medics referred to them by the GMC.
But their decision promoted outrage and ridicule from other medical professionals.
Neurologist Dr David Nicholl from Birmingham wrote sarcastically on twitter: ‘“Dear parent, Gt Ormond St are REALLY sorry but your child’s heart op is delayed 6 months… as our cardiac anaesthetist has been suspended 6 months by the GMC for using his wife’s Oyster card, for which he was already fined, we’re sure you’ll be pleased with this”.’
Others labelled it as ‘pathetic’, ‘appalling’, and ‘a travesty’, with some noting that as Dr Ip cannot work while suspended it was equivalent to issuing him a £50,000 fine.
Other medics asked if they should report themselves to the GMC for sharing Netlfix passwords.
Dr Matt Bigwood of the Doctors’ Association UK was another who slammed the ban handed to Dr Ip.
‘We at The Doctors’ Association UK are again left shocked and angered by the actions of the GMC,’ he said.
‘The suspension of six months for Dr Ip for the offence committed is totally disproportionate, with other much more serious offences (e.g. drink driving and sexual offences) often getting commensurate suspensions.
‘He has already admitted to the fraud, shown remorse and accepted the punishment.’
He added that the suspension could even harm patients by ‘possibly delaying paediatric cardiac surgery in his absence’.
Dr Bigwood said doctors from ethnic minorities have repeatedly faced disproportionate sanctions from the GMC and called for action.
‘There does not seem to be any change to the institutional racism coming from inside the GMC. We call for an immediate independent review into this,’ he said.
But some medics said doctors were not above the law and should face professional sanctions if they broke the law.
Dr Joel Giblett, a cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘You can’t dishonestly commit fraud repeatedly over an extended course and think there’s no consequence. It wasn’t a one off. It only stopped when he was caught.’
And Kathye King, who claimed to be the mother of a child waiting for surgery at GOSH, said she supported the suspension.
‘I am a parent of a child waiting for surgery at GOSH and quite honestly I would prefer a member of staff who was honest because if someone is willing to break the law over one thing means they are likely to be doing so elsewhere,’ she wrote.
MailOnline approached the GMC but it declined to comment.
Dr Ip has 28 days to appeal the tribunal’s decision which was handed down on March 9.