A Teesside doctor who bombarded a woman with unwanted messages, asked about her sex life and told her she would live a “lonely life” if she cut contact with him has been suspended.
It follows a decision by a medical tribunal panel that Dr Clive Kelly’s fitness to practice medicine had been impaired due to proven allegations of harassment and dishonesty. The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service proceedings took place after an investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) into allegations he bombarded “Miss B” with unwanted Facebook messages and emails quizzing her about her mental health and sex life.
In misconduct documents outlining the allegations, it is stated that, in 2017, Dr Kelly accessed the medical records of Mrs A without having a legitimate reason or her permission. He then disclosed personal information about Mrs A to Miss B.
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Dr Kelly, who has worked for James Cook University Hospita l in Middlesbrough, also sent a document entitled ‘last chance’ to Miss B, after she told him not to contact her or her family again. He indicated that she was becoming increasingly paranoid, referred to her mental illness, and made comments about knowing about her childhood circumstances and her reputation at university.
The tribunal heard, in submissions from GMC’s Ceri Widdett, how Dr Kelly had “abused his position of power and influence over Miss B.” She submitted that he was “not acting out of concern of Christian love and support towards Miss B” and instead expressed negative views about her mental health, undermined her academic abilities and breached her confidentiality.
Ms Widdett said this was a “serious departure” from Good Medical Practice and submitted that “Dr Kelly’s disgraceful pattern of behavior and disregard for the consequences of that behavior amounted to serious misconduct”.
The misconduct panel also heard that when applying for a locum consultant rheumatologist post at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, he completed a declaration form which failed to provide accurate information on the reasons for the GMC investigation.
During his submissions on impairment, Anthony Haycroft, representing Dr Kelly, drew the tribunal’s attention to testimonials which described Dr Kelly as ‘humble, honest and respectful’ and ‘the model of integrity and honesty’.
He also said the testimonials suggest the “hackneyed phrase ‘out of character’ is appropriate” with respect to Dr Kelly’s actions. With regard to the harassment, Mr Haycroft summed up that “Dr Kelly’s ultimate goal was altruistic, but that he went about it inappropriately”.
Lindsay Irvine, MPTS tribunal chairman, said: “The tribunal noted the power imbalance and age imbalance between Dr Kelly and Miss B, and considerable influence he had over her academic studies. It recalled its finding that he had abused the trust she had placed in. him, such as asking about her sex life or entering her room unannounced.
“This was further exacerbated by Dr. Kelly’s standing in Miss B’s local community and Miss B’s vulnerability, given her mental health. Overall, the court reminded itself that it had found that Dr. Kelly’s actions had undermined Miss B’s self-confidence and feeling of self- worth.
“It also recalled that the course of conduct was persistent, took different forms and was over an extended period.”
However, when coming to a decision on sanctions, he said: “While serious, it had not been specifically alleged that Dr Kelly’s harassment was predatory or sexually motivated, and the abuse of his position was not in a clinical context. It also noted his dishonesty was not prolonged or sustained and was an isolated incident. “
The tribunal heard how there was no evidence that Dr Kelly, who has apologized to Miss B and Ms A, had repeated his actions and that he had given up his roles in youth groups, no longer acts as a clinical supervisor for junior doctors, and no longer runs access courses for medical students to mitigate against any misunderstandings in the future.
The panel referred to the “very powerful and positive testimonials” made on Dr Kelly’s behalf and accepted submissions that the harassment was “out of character”. The tribunal also heard how Dr Kelly had chosen to work throughout the pandemic and how specialist Dr Kelly’s skills are.
Mr Haycroft said: “Given the current pressure, if there is a further crisis this winter, we are already now in a situation whereby there has been an increase of covid cases. His skills may need to be called upon.”
He heard how his medical work extended beyond the trust and his “medical registration value does not stop at the hospital” and how he uses his skills in humanitarian projects. He had continued this in the past five years which have been “particularly difficult for him”.
Mr Irvine added: “The tribunal remined itself that there were no clinical failings in this case and patient safety was not put at risk. It also noted that it had found that the risk of Dr Kelly repeating his misconduct was low, and that the remediation he had completed gave him sufficient insight into his actions.
“Given these considerations, the court determined not to impose a review of Dr. Kelly’s practice at the end of his suspension.”
Following a conclusion of serious misconduct, Dr. Kelly was suspended for six months.