Merseyside doctor suspended after arranging fake appointment for sexual encounter with a patient

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The Wirral doctor said he “felt terrible” about the events.

A Wirral doctor has been suspended after setting up a fake appointment to have a sexual encounter with a patient at his surgery.

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.

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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. The report said GMC officials felt his conduct had been sufficiently serious to warrant a six month suspension.

Report revelations: A panel hearing, held earlier this month, was told 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.

The report said 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.”

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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.

Fake appointment: At first, the doctor refused but was persuaded by Patient A to arrange the meet for September 15, setting up a bogus appointment in Dr Paton’s clinical room. The 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.

Blackmail demands: On March 12 last year, Patient A made a blackmail demand for money to Dr Paton and threatened to expose the relationship. In evidence, Dr Paton said when he first met Patient A on the dating app, he thought it unlikely the man would be registered at his practice. The pair shared graphic images between themselves and Dr Paton said he had been scared of what Patient A may do if he rejected the proposal of a sexual encounter in his surgery.

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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.

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

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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.”

Panel decision: The report detailed how the tribunal was satisfied that Dr Paton’s conduct would be regarded as “deplorable” by fellow practitioners – in particular the doctor arranging and then having a sexual encounter with Patient A in the doctor’s consulting room. 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.”

The panel took the view sexual misconduct was not easily remediable and “in contrast to issues of clinical competence it is difficult to know what motivated and what currently motivates Dr Paton in terms of his unmet sexual needs particularly in times of stress.” It added how Dr Paton was aware of the professional rules and boundaries that governed his conduct but he nevertheless felt compelled to act in the way he did.

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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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