The matchday doctor at the centre of the "Bloodgate" fake rugby injury scandal was told today she can practise medicine again.

Dr Wendy Chapman cut the lip of Harlequins player Tom Williams to cover up a bogus blood injury and later lied about her role in the event.

A General Medical Council (GMC) disciplinary panel ruled Dr Chapman's fitness to practise was not impaired despite her actions, which it said were not in the best interests of her patient.

She was suspended by the GMC last September and could have been struck off at the hearing in Manchester.

Panel chairman Dr Brian Alderman said Dr Chapman was guilty of "serious misconduct" but she was "severely depressed" at the time.

She would not have acted in the way she did but for her "altered state of mind", he said.

He added: "The panel has concluded that, while at the times these events occurred your fitness to practise was impaired, looking forward, your fitness to practise is currently not impaired.

"You do not pose any risk to patients or the public. The panel accepts that there is a public interest in retaining the services of a good doctor."

Dr Alderman said the panel would consider tomorrow morning whether it was appropriate to issue a warning to the doctor.

Legal representatives for Dr Chapman said she would not comment publicly on the hearing until then.

Williams's supposed injury meant a specialist goal kicker could come on to the pitch for Harlequins in the dying minutes of last year's Heineken Cup rugby union quarter-final tie against Irish side Leinster, who held on to win 6-5.

Last week, Dr Chapman told the GMC panel she was "ashamed" she gave in to pressure from Williams, who begged her in the changing rooms to conceal that, minutes earlier, he had bitten into a fake-blood capsule on the pitch.

She said she was then "horrified" that she went on to lie to a European Rugby Cup (ERC) hearing that the injury was genuine and supported the club's initial statement of innocence.

The panel accepted medical evidence which showed Dr Chapman was suffering from depression for about two years before she cut the player's lip on April 12 last year.

It noted she was also awaiting the results of an MRI scan to exclude the possibility of breast cancer - with a strong family history of the disease - and was involved in a work dispute at her NHS post.

Dr Alderman said it was clear that Dr Chapman's mental health was "much better now" following treatment and that she was not currently suffering from depression.

"You have said you feel better now than you have for years," he said. "The prognosis for the future is good and the panel accepts the medical opinion that you will in the future be aware if your mental state begins to deteriorate.

"Normally such misconduct could be expected to result in a finding of impaired fitness to practise. However, the circumstances of this case are wholly exceptional in that the expert medical evidence suggests that in the absence of depression you would have not acted in this way."

The former A&E consultant at Maidstone Hospital, Kent, admitted almost all the charges levelled against her by the GMC, which said her conduct on the match day and at the ERC hearing was likely to bring the profession into disrepute and was dishonest.

Williams had come on the pitch at the Twickenham Stoop as a substitute but came off in the 75th minute with blood apparently gushing out of his mouth. This allowed New Zealander Nick Evans to return to the field as a blood replacement and attempt to kick a winning goal.

Blood replacements are substitute players temporarily brought on to the pitch while players with blood injuries receive treatment.

An initial ERC hearing last July cleared Dr Chapman of conspiring to get Evans back on the pitch.

After she was acquitted as a defendant, she effectively gave evidence as a prosecution witness where she backed up the club's initial version of events that the injury was real.

Former Harlequins director of rugby and ex-England international Dean Richards was given a three-year ban by an ERC appeals panel after Williams later changed his evidence and told the truth.

It emerged during the hearing that Richards ordered fake blood injuries on four other occasions and orchestrated the "Bloodgate" cover-up.

Williams's initial 12-month ban was reduced to four months after his admission of the capsule use, club physiotherapist Steph Brennan - who gave the capsule to the player - was banned for two years, and the club was fined £258,000.

Dr Chapman had been suspended by the GMC from practising medicine since last September.

Dr Alderman said both the lip cutting and the giving of dishonest evidence were "wholly unacceptable".

Her decision to cut the lip with a stitch-cutter was a "spur of the moment error of judgment which nevertheless was still serious".

It was a difficult and unique situation in that a fit and well patient asked to effect an injury but as an experienced A and E consultant she should have been able to refuse the request, he said.

He said Harlequins had devised a "united front" at the ERC hearing with the intention of misleading the committee of inquiry.

"You may well not have liked adhering to the unified approach but nevertheless you did so," said the panel chairman.

"The panel has concluded that your behaviour in this case is sufficiently serious to amount to serious misconduct."

The panel accepted expert evidence that Dr Chapman would have disclosed sooner the true events in the changing room but for her depression.

Dr Alderman concluded she had admitted her behaviour was wrong, had full insight of the events and was unlikely to repeat the behaviour.

She had enjoyed a previously unblemished career and her psychiatric condition was now controlled and did not pose a threat to her decision-making.

The panel will reconvene tomorrow morning to invite submissions on whether a warning should be imposed.