A family doctor who was honored by Boris Johnson over his work during the Covid pandemic has been suspended after he was caught illicitly sharing confidential patient details.
Dr Haider Ali, 38, taped one consultation with a woman then shared it via WhatsApp in which he allegedly mocked her weight and later shared details of a second woman he suspected of making a false claim for benefits.
Over a period of four months, GP Ali breached the privacy of various patients by photographing and leaking their medical records.
He also annotated copies of them with laughing emojjs – with one mark referring to TV cartoon character Inspector Gadget.
Last October Ali, from Sale, Greater Manchester received a bravery award from the PM at Downing Street after he voluntarily delivered care packages of essentials and treats for NHS staff who have had to move away from their loved ones during the pandemic.
His work led to him being featured on radio shows including Talk Radio where he was interviewed by Trish Goddard and he has been recognized by Manchester United, Liverpool FC and Andy Burnham the Mayor of Greater Manchester.
But at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, Ali was found guilty of misconduct and was ordered to be suspended from duty for four months.
The order will take effect later to allow the possibility of an appeal.
The Manchester hearing was told Ali had ” not intended to cause harm or offense and that his motive was a thoughtless and ill-judged attempt at humor, rather than anything more sinister. ”
He has since apologized for his conduct.
The incidents began in July 2018 whilst Dr Ali was employed by the Robert Darbishire Practice, in Rusholme, Manchester and during occasional locum shifts at Boundary House Medical Center in Sale.
One of the women known as Patient A had booked a consultation with Ali and she agreed to let him tape the meeting for “training purposes”.
But the hearing was told the content of the recording suggested Dr Ali was “taking an unprofessional and mocking tone as if he were making fun of Patient A”.
She was said to have a poor grasp of English and had difficulty understanding what Dr Ali said to her.
The recording was subsequently sent by Whatsapp to a friend known as Mr B and it was claimed Haider laughed at the recording in front of him and made fun of Patient A’s weight.
It was also alleged he tried to discuss Patient A’s medical history with Mr B.
Later when Mr B attended a family get together at Ali’s home the GP began discussing the medical history of a mutual friend known as Patient C after he secretly took photos of her records and shared them via the messaging service.
During the party which Patient C had previously attended but left, it was claimed Ali told guests private information about surgery she had undergone and made reference to her making a fraudulent claim for benefits.
Mr B and others were said to be ” not amused ” by what Dr Ali was saying, told him they disapproved of it and insisted he should not be discussing such matters about Patient C.
But Ali also shared photographs of parts of other patients’ confidential medical records with some of the images annotated with emojis.
Mr B said that when Dr Ali, visiting his family home, he would try to engage Mr B in conversation about the messages and to ” joke ” about them.
Ali was eventually reported to the General Medical Council when Mr B contacted Patient C.
The MPTS panel was given screenshots of nine WhatsApp photographs plus an audio recording which had been sent to the GMC.
The majority displayed a header ‘Haider’ with a date and time beneath indicating when the message was sent between July and November 2018.
In his defense Ali confirmed that there had been a social gathering involving with Patient C but he denied discussed her confidential medical information or any claims for benefits.
In a statement he said: ” Patient C was visiting our home on a date sometime after the gathering in Manchester and asked if I could obtain a copy of her records and bring them to Birmingham the following weekend.
“She mentioned that she had had a procedure and she was seeking some advice about this and something to do with her entitlement to benefits.”
He said he later accessed Patient C’s medical record, took a photograph of it and sent it via WhatsApp to Mr B, to be forwarded on.
Ali accepted he had annotated the photograph with an arrow pointing to the relevant entry, adding a ‘crying-laughing’ emoticon and the hashtag #inspectorgadget which was a nickname he had for Patient C.
But the GP said one friend had accessed his laptop and had taken copies of the screengrabs with a view to “possibly blackmailing him in the future”.
He claimed Patient C, Mr B and two other friends had ” engaged in an elaborate conspiracy of Machiavellian proportions ” to make it appear he had been disclosing confidential medical records.
He claimed the annotations had been made by someone else saying the allegations against him were ” borne of their animosity towards him. ” Ali was found guilty of nine misconduct charges but cleared of another 11.
MPTS chairman Mr Tim Bradbury said: “Dr Ali’s actions of photographing and sharing medical records amounted to numerous breaches of patient confidentiality.
“There were several instances over a period of approximately four months, involving a number of patients.
” Dr Ali had copied and disseminated patient records in such a cavalier manner, in an ill-judged attempt at humor and in some cases subjecting the patients concerned to potential ridicule.
” The Tribunal concluded it was far more likely that, Dr Ali having both taken all the photographs on his mobile phone, sent them over a period of time to Mr B in a misplaced and wholly unprofessional attempt at humor.
” Dr Ali annotated and added an emoticon in a manner which was mocking of Patient C and which would have been likely to offend her or subject her to derision if the photograph was shown to others.
” The Tribunal considered that Dr Ali would not have included these additions if he had believed they were going to be seen by Patient C or by anyone from whom she was going to seek serious advice.
” Dr Ali had maintained that ‘Inspector Gadget’ was a nickname he had for Patient C. But neither Patient C nor any of the other witnesses who gave evidence appeared to be aware of this nickname.
” Further, the Tribunal found that Dr Ali had in addition to adding the annotation to Patient C’s medical records, added the emoticons to the other messages which were of a similar nature.
“The Tribunal rejected as implausible the suggestion that these might have been added by someone else, other than Dr Ali himself.
” Dr Ali did not have any clinical reason to view Patient C’s medical record, and that the only reason he had done so on this occasion was to obtain confirmation of the fact that Patient C had undergone surgery and he wished to convey that to Mr B to prove a point and he did so in an unprofessional and wholly unjustified attempt at humor.
” The reference to ‘Inspector Gadget’ with a ‘crying-laughing’ emoticon was more likely to be a reference to Dr Ali himself.
“This would have been to highlight that he had evidence of the matters about which there had been discussion at the gathering.
” It is most likely that there had been some conversation regarding Patient C and possibly a claim for benefits and that this would have occurred at a time after Patient C had left the gathering.
“The tribunal is mindful patient confidentiality is at the center of the doctor-patient relationship, and its importance cannot be understated.”
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