High Court refuses interim injunction in doctor’s disciplinary dispute

Another injunction case has recently been decided by the High Court (Makhdum v Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust) and although it had similar background facts (an employee seeking to prevent a disciplinary hearing proceeding), as the Chhabra case, the High Court did not grant the employee’s injunction application.

The application by the consultant psychiatrist was for an injunction to restrain the employer Trust from further pursuing disciplinary proceedings, on the grounds of breaches of procedure and a lack of impartiality.  This included an allegation that the investigator was not suitable as he was not clinically qualified.

The application failed. One of the main reasons given by the Court was that the doctor had failed to show there was a serious issue to be tried.  The investigator was not required to be a clinician, as the issues investigated did not relate to the employee’s clinical practice but rather whether there had been financial impropriety. In addition, the application failed in any event because of the employee’s delay in making his application until after the disciplinary hearing had already commenced although the proceedings had been adjourned.

Encouragingly for employers/Trusts, the case also held that the High Court would not micro-manage disciplinary proceedings and investigations. The difference in outcomes in the Chhabra and Makhdum cases shows the focus that the Court will put on the conduct of the applicant when considering whether to grant an injunction.