Doctor who set up fake appointment for sex to return to work

A doctor who set up a fake appointment to have a sexual encounter with a patient at his surgery has been deemed fit to return to practice.

Despite knowing the man he met was a patient at his practice in Birkenhead, Dr Marc Paton agreed to set up a bogus encounter to facilitate the pair being able to meet in his surgery to act out a sexual fantasy. A Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service report in June revealed how Dr Paton also checked the practice’s database to find out if the man was a patient at the surgery.

After a blackmail demand by the man – referred to as Patient A – Dr Paton self-referred himself to the General Medical Council (GMC) in March 2022. GMC officials felt his conduct had been sufficiently serious to warrant a six-month suspension, which has now been lifted.

As a result, Dr Paton is now cleared to return to medical practice after approval was granted last month.

Dr Paton qualified in 2004 at the University of Liverpool and worked in New Zealand before returning to the UK in 2015. He joined Miriam Primary Care Group where he has worked ever since in October 2016 and became a partner two years later.

A Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing was told Dr Paton met Patient A on Grindr in September 2021 and on their second meeting agreed to go to his house. Due to the proximity of Patient A’s address to the surgery, Dr Paton used its database to see if he was a registered patient.

On discovering he was, Dr Paton was said to have initially declined to meet “but subsequently was won over by Patient A’s argument that they had never met professionally and that he would register at a different practice.” On their second meeting, Dr Paton said Patient A expressed a desire to play out a fantasy of having a sexual encounter at the surgery.

At first, the doctor refused but was persuaded by Patient A to arrange the meet for 15 September, setting up a bogus appointment in Dr Paton’s clinical room. An MPTS report said he then carried out a clinical consultation regarding Patient A’s mental health to justify seeing him in his room at the practice. 

Dr Paton provided clinical care and advice to Patient A on a further five occasions. The panel was told the doctor attempted to distance himself from the patient, who went on to disclose his sexual encounters to a third party.

In March 2022, Patient A made a blackmail demand for money to Dr Paton and threatened to expose the relationship. Dr Paton said when he first met Patient A on the dating app, he thought it would be unlikely the man would be registered at his practice. 

The pair shared graphic images and Dr Paton said he was scared of what Patient A may do if he declined a sexual encounter at the surgery.

The report said, “He said that at this point it was too embarrassing to tell his work colleagues, practice manager and senior partners what he had been doing and he accepted that he could have put in measures at the practice which meant that he could not have seen Patient A as a patient.”

He said on reflection, Dr Paton recognised there was an “element of testing the limits and pushing boundaries as he felt like what he was doing was wrong and that the element of the risk taking behaviour had got out of control.” During the hearing, it was put to him there were seven instances when he could have put a stop to the behaviour but did not, which he accepted.

The doctor said he “felt terrible” about the events and it was not something he ever imagined he would do. Dr Paton claimed he found it difficult to separate personal and professional boundaries and recognised the harm his conduct had caused.

When the events came to light at the practice, the doctor described it as “like an explosion” which he feared could lead to him losing his job and career. The report said: “He said that he had felt his actions were unforgivable. 

“He said that he felt humble and grateful that the practice stuck with him and that they placed their faith in him and had slowly learned to trust him again. He said that all his clinical face to face encounters have been chaperoned over the last 12 months and he recognised that impact this had placed on the practice.” 

The tribunal was satisfied that Dr Paton’s conduct would be regarded as “deplorable” by fellow practitioners. It said, “Dr Paton’s actions amounted to conduct of a morally culpable or otherwise disgraceful kind which brings disgrace upon the doctor and prejudices the reputation of the profession.”

In handing out a six-month suspension, the GMC said it felt this was sufficient enough to provide Dr Paton “with an opportunity to demonstrate further development of his insight, further address underlying unhelpful core beliefs in his therapy, and allow him to show that he had taken steps to further reduce any risk of repetition.”

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