Doctor Avoids Being Struck Off for ICU Visit During Covid Lockdown

A doctor accused of breaching Covid lockdown restrictions by bluffing his way into an intensive care unit (ICU) to visit a critically ill relative will not be struck off, the tribunal has decided. Trainee GP Ashbal Chaudhary, 30, showed up at Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester without prior authorization, dressed in medical scrubs and a stethoscope, despite the ban on visits from loved ones at the time.

Initially mistaken for a member of the ICU team, Chaudhary accessed patient information, including blood test results, spoke to the patient at the bedside, and discussed treatment plans with surgeons. It was only later discovered that he was not a staff member, leading to his being reported to the police and the General Medical Council.

Chaudhary defended himself by claiming he was unaware that his actions were in violation of the lockdown rules. Explaining the incident, he mentioned that his “head space was muddled” at the time and that he mistakenly believed he would be allowed to visit his relative, who he thought was dying.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) found Chaudhary guilty of serious professional misconduct but determined that he was fit to continue practicing medicine. According to the tribunal, Chaudhary’s focus at the time was on the immediate care plan for the patient, and he may not have given due consideration to questions about visiting rights. Despite misleading hospital staff by wearing medical scrubs and a stethoscope, the tribunal stated that Chaudhary did not have the intent to deceive and that his choice of attire was in line with his normal practice.

The incident occurred on April 25, 2020, just one month after the Covid lockdown was implemented. Chaudhary had called Wythenshawe hospital for information about his relative before deciding to visit in person, as he had done previously at Stepping Hill hospital. Unaware that the rules at Wythenshawe were more stringent, he dressed in his travel scrubs and acted without malicious intent.

While Chaudhary has escaped being struck off, this case brings to light the challenges faced by healthcare professionals during the Covid pandemic and the need for clear guidelines and effective communication to navigate such complex situations.