Bloodgate doctor pleased nightmare is over

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The matchday doctor at the centre of the "Bloodgate" fake injury rugby scandal said today she was pleased that she could return to medicine and hoped to put an 18-month nightmare behind her.

Dr Wendy Chapman said the saga had been a "great strain" as she looked ahead to finding new employment.



Yesterday, a General Medical Council disciplinary panel ruled that her fitness to practise is not impaired and lifted her interim suspension.



She was found guilty of serious misconduct when she cut the lip of Harlequins player Tom Williams and then lied about the event but it was found she would not have acted in the way she did but for the depression she was suffering at the time.



The case concluded today when the GMC panel said it was "appropriate" and "proportionate" to issue a formal warning against her.



Panel chairman Dr Brian Alderman said: "The panel considers it to be in the public interest to formally indicate that your conduct was unacceptable and should not be repeated."



The warning will be attached to her registration for five years and must be disclosed to anyone inquiring about her fitness to practise history.



Williams's supposed injury meant a specialist goalkicker was able to 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, 46, 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, 2009.



It noted that 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.



Speaking on her behalf following the hearing, her solicitor Charles Dewhurst said: "Dr Chapman is pleased that the panel has determined that her fitness to practise is not impaired.



"She made it quite clear in her evidence that what she did was wrong, that she finds it hard to explain and that she feels ashamed of her actions."



He said that the last 18 months had been a "nightmare for Dr Chapman and her family".



"All this has been a great strain," he said. "She hopes it will be appreciated that she now needs space to get her life back together.



"She must also concentrate on obtaining the further treatment she requires following her breast surgery.



"The panel noted the public interest in retaining the services of a good doctor and Dr Chapman hopes that in due course she may be able to find new employment to fulfil her wish to continue to practise her career in medicine and to provide public service in so doing."



Dr Chapman issued thanks to her husband and three children, her union, her legal team and those who had helped with her depression.



She also expressed gratitude to witnesses who gave evidence on her behalf and the "huge number" of friends and ex-colleagues who offered their support.



In reaching its findings on the warning, Dr Alderman said: "It is the duty of this panel to protect the public interest.



"Your actions and dishonest conduct were a serious departure from the appropriate standards of conduct for a registered medical practitioner, which was detrimental to the maintenance of public confidence in the profession, and to the upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour.



"The panel also considers it to be in your own interests that you are served with an official reminder that your behaviour in this instance fell below the standards expected. This should also act as a deterrent.



"Any repetition of such behaviour risks bringing the reputation of the profession into disrepute and would be likely to result in a finding of impaired fitness to practise.



"A formal response to your conduct is therefore needed to highlight to you and to the wider profession that this conduct is unacceptable."



At the end of the hearing he told the doctor: "Despite all what has happened we wish you well in your future career. Good luck."



Earlier, Mary O'Rourke QC, counsel for Dr Chapman, argued a warning would be "disproportionate" because she had already endured "significant public rebuke and admonishment".



She said such warnings were often misunderstood in the profession and could damage her future job prospects.



"She is not going to forget this for the rest of her life," Ms O'Rourke said. "She does not need a reminder, the public do not need a reminder."



Michael Hayton, representing the GMC, said a warning was needed because of the significant departure from the appropriate standards.



He said: "The behaviour of the doctor viewed in isolation was profoundly serious so that the profession was marred."



Dr Chapman, a 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 matchday 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 himself in the 75th minute with blood apparently gushing out of his mouth, which 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 then 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 and is currently unemployed.



Comments