Drink-drive doctor awarded £70,000 in Employment Tribunal unfair dismissal claim

MoJA doctor who was sacked after he was caught drink-driving whilst on the way to work has been awarded more than £70,000 after succeeding with his legal claim.

Dr Alan Stockman, 44, made a claim for unfair dismissal in the Employment Tribunal after he was sacked from his job for being four times over the drink-drive limit whilst on the way to work.

Dr Stockman was stopped by police on the M90 in May 2012 after he was spotted driving his car erratically along the busy motorway. A breathalyzer test found that Dr Stockman was four times over the limit and he was subsequently banned from driving for two years by the Dunfermline Sheriff Court. However, Dr Stockman was also suspended from practicing by the General Medical Council for 18 months as a result of his drink-driving and was sacked from his consultancy position at NHS Fife, with the NHS organisation stating that it could not retain the consultant’s services because of his ban and that he was unlikely to recover from his alcohol problems.

The dismissed doctor subsequently made an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and his case came before the Fife Employment Tribunal last year. Dr Stockman’s legal team argued that his dismissal was unfair as NHS Fife should have taken medical advice on what his chances and time frames were of recovering from alcohol addiction and returning to work. They also argued that the organisation had failed to take account of medical evidence provided by Dr Stockman which suggested that the probability that he would recover from his addiction and return to work were high. NHS Fife’s lawyers argued that it was unreasonable to expect the organisation to retain Dr Stockman on full pay during the time period of his suspension as it was necessary to pay another consultant to cover his job and, further, that the medical evidence that Dr Stockman sought to use was inadmissible.

The Employment Tribunal found in Dr Stockman’s favour in his claim for unfair dismissal and awarded him £70,000 in loss of earnings. However, NHS Fife appealed this finding and the matter came before the Employment Appeal Tribunal earlier this year.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the organisation’s appeal against the finding of unfair dismissal, holding that the medical evidence advanced by Dr Stockman was inadmissible, and that the Tribunal had not substituted its view for that of the organisation.

NHS Fife’s medical director, Dr Brian Montgomery, commented on the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal as follows: “We are unable to comment on individual members of staff past or present. However, we are aware of the judgement made in this case.”

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “It is crucial in unfair dismissal cases that employers carry out a fair, thorough and prompt investigation and, further, that they be able to prove that they have carried out a fair, thorough and prompt investigation. In this case NHS Fife was unable to convince the Employment Tribunal that it had carried out a fair investigation by rejecting the medical opinion of other doctors.”