Former BMA chief cleared of misconduct

A top surgeon and former chairman of the British Medical Association was today cleared of misconduct by medical watchdogs.

James Johnson, 64, a "seasoned surgeon and distinguished doctor", had been accused of acting arrogantly and neglecting the care of his patients because he was too busy with his high-flying role at the BMA.

Mr Johnson faced a number of serious charges during an 11-week hearing of a Fitness to Practise panel of the General Medical Council (GMC) sitting in Manchester.

The hearing was told Mr Johnson's patients had been "missing out" under his care, his techniques became "outdated" and he began "over-operating" - amputating patients' limbs when less drastic procedures may have been more appropriate, it was alleged.

And it was claimed Mr Johnson did sometimes not properly involve himself with post-operative care of his patients because he was away in London on BMA duties.

The charges had related to alleged flaws in his performance - in pre and post-operative work as well as surgery - relating to 14 patients between 2006 and 2008, at the two Cheshire hospitals where he worked in Warrington and Runcorn.

The GMC did find there was some deficient professional performance, mainly relating to operating procedures used by Mr Johnson and his lack of involvement in team meetings and post-operative care of patients.

But as he had now changed or modified his practice, they concluded this did not amount to impairment in his fitness to practise and there were no aspects of his behaviour or conduct that amounted to misconduct.

The GMC declined to issue any sanction or warning, and removed an interim order on his practice which was in place while he was being investigated.

Martin Forde QC, representing Mr Johnson, said the GMC investigation and hearing had been a "chastening and humbling" experience for the top consultant but had "resulted in his total vindication".

Mr Johnson was the public face of the BMA, which represents 140,000 doctors, for almost half of the 19-month period in which the GMC investigated his conduct.

He became the BMA leader in July 2003 but resigned in May 2007.

Andrew Popat, chairman of the panel, concluding the case, added: "The panel has already determined that you have shown a good level of insight into your failings and have apologised accordingly.

"It has also noted that you are of previous good history, that the incidents in your case were isolated and that there has been no repetition of similar behaviour since.

"Further, it has already concluded that the likelihood of you repeating such behaviour is limited and that you have modified your practice or will modify your practice in the future."

After the hearing, Mr Johnson said: "I am delighted and relieved that the GMC's decision resulted in a finding that I had not been guilty of misconduct and that my professional performance was not so deficient as to amount to impairment of my fitness to practise.

"I have nevertheless reflected upon the issues raised in the hearing and have either modified my practice or will do so where appropriate as the panel acknowledged when finding my evidence entirely credible in this regard.

"I remain dedicated to my patients and look forward to continuing to practise as a surgeon.

"I would like to thank my friends and family for their understanding and unwavering support during this time, as well as my legal team."