Consultant who won appeal against manslaughter conviction cleared of misconduct

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A consultant who successfully appealed against a conviction of gross negligence manslaughter of a patient has been cleared by a medical tribunal of misconduct allegations.

David Sellu, 70, was jailed in November 2013 for two-and-a-half years over the death of father-of-six James Hughes but following his release 15 months later his conviction was overturned.

The General Medical Council (GMC) later brought disciplinary matters against him and claimed that he allowed vital time to “slip by” between diagnosis and surgery on Mr Hughes.

Retired builder Mr Hughes, 66, from Northern Ireland, underwent knee replacement a week earlier but developed abdominal pain and was transferred to the care of Mr Sellu at Clement Churchill private hospital in Harrow, north London.

Opening the case last month, Paul Williams, for the GMC, told the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing: “The criticism here is not that Mr Sellu got the diagnosis wrong on February 11.

“Nor did he do anything wrong with the surgery itself, but it is the timescale in between, and the actions and inactions within that period.”

However, the tribunal sitting in Manchester disagreed and ruled that Mr Sellu did not have a duty to perform surgery on February 11 when it was first suspected that Mr Hughes was suffering from a perforated bowel and he instead requested a CT scan.

The tribunal added it was satisfied that when he received the results of the CT scan the next day he made proactive steps to make immediate arrangements to perform urgent surgery.

It also found there was no evidence that Mr Hughes showed significant signs of deterioration over the afternoon of February 12 before Mr Sellu eventually operated on him that evening and into the early hours of the next day.

On February 14 Mr Hughes died following the surgery.

In November 2016, three Court of Appeal judges quashed Mr Sellu’s conviction on the ground of directions given to the jury by the trial judge on the issue of gross negligence manslaughter.

The Crown Prosecution Service stated it was not in the public interest to seek a retrial.

Following Tuesday’s findings by the MPTS, the GMC stated: “Although Dr Sellu’s criminal conviction was overturned on appeal there remained a very serious allegation that he failed to provide good clinical care to his patient, Mr Hughes, who sadly died while in hospital in 2010.

“As there remained a significant dispute about the facts it could only be resolved by referring the case to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

“The Tribunal, after hearing from all of the witnesses and experts, has resolved the dispute of facts, in the doctor’s favour.”

Dr Rob Hendry, medical director at the Medical Protection Society, said: “The MPTS Tribunal’s conclusion that none of the GMC’s allegations against David Sellu are proved will be very welcome news for him and his family.

“We are pleased to have helped Mr Sellu quash his manslaughter conviction in November 2016, clear his name, and continue his career in medicine. But we know this is also a matter of principle for the wider profession.

“The MPTS Tribunal heard all of the evidence in this case and tested it rigorously. As we have said before, they are best placed to weigh up all of the factors affecting a doctor’s fitness to practise.

“By contrast, a criminal court is rarely the best place to hold a doctor to account for what has happened in a complex clinical environment. There has never been a more important time to debate this issue, and we will be calling on the Government review led by Professor Sir Norman Williams to address it.”

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