A GP who did not declare that he was a £15,000 beneficiary in an elderly patient’s will before she died did mislead his colleagues, a Fitness to Practise panel has found.
The General Medical Council (GMC) hearing heard that Dr Alan Howlett, who worked at the Fremington Medical Centre in Barnstaple, North Devon, failed to tell his partners that his patient, known only as Patient A, had added him to her will.
He was cleared of an allegation that he intended to mislead them, but the chairman of the panel, Dr Howard Freeman, added: “Nevertheless, in not telling your partners that you had been included in Mrs A’s will as soon as you became aware of this fact, you did mislead them.”
Dr Howlett said he “freely admitted” he had a financial interest in the will when questioned by other doctors at the practice after Patient A’s death, aged 91, on July 12 last year.
But he claimed he had “no obligation” to inform them beforehand because an updated version of a partnership deed requiring him to disclose the information as soon as he became aware of it was only at a discussion stage at the time.
The doctor told the panel he discovered in March or April last year that he had become a beneficiary in Patient A’s will, signed and sworn in February that year, but did not mention this to colleagues until after her death, as it was a “confidential matter between me and her”.
The panel will now decide whether Dr Howlett’s fitness to practise is impaired and, if so, what sanctions to impose.
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