Doctor duped college to sit exam after failing seven times
THE Royal College of Physicians (RCPI) has changed its exam registration system after a suspended UK doctor was incorrectly given permission to sit an exam in Ireland that he had already failed seven times.
A fitness to practise inquiry conducted in Manchester this week found Dr Abdel Elhassan had conducted a "campaign of dishonesty" and deliberately misled authorities in an effort to gain membership of a faculty run by the RCPI in Dublin.
He was struck off the register this week.
The tribunal heard that between 2004 and 2010, the medic failed on six occasions to gain entry to a specialist medical institution, called the Faculty of Public Health, which is based in the UK.
Dr Elhassan then attempted to register for the Irish version of the same exam in the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, located in the RCPI in Kildare Street.
Strict rules, operated by both faculties, state candidates are only permitted to take the entrance exam four times, with additional sittings only allowed in special cases. The rules also state that failed attempts transfer over from one country to another.
Dr Elhassan, who subsequently failed the exam for a seventh time, contacted the Faculty of Public Health in Ireland and was eventually given permission to sit the exam for the eighth time after not fully disclosing his extensive history of failing exams to the RCPI.
The tribunal also heard that the doctor was suspended at the time he took the exam which should have also disqualified him from the sitting.
The tribunal heard evidence from Dr Emer Shelley and Sinead McCallion who worked at the Faculty of Public Health Medicine at RCPI at the time, as well as receiving written testimonies from five other doctors and administrators from RCPI.
Dr Elhassan was not present at the tribunal but submitted a letter to the General Medical Council, which is the regulatory body for doctors in the UK. In it he said he had suffered from "serious family problems" and that he had learnt from his mistakes.
"I will leave it to the Fitness to Practise panel to discuss, but my overall submission is that since I do not see patients, there is no patient safety concern and neither is my case a matter of professional/public confidence," he said.
But the tribunal ruled that Dr Elhassan had "displayed an unwillingness to accept that he had done wrong and continues to deflect blame for his actions on to the Irish Faculty" and added that he had shown "a disregard for rules and regulations ... in the pursuit of his personal ambition".
"The panel determined that Dr Elhassan abused his position of trust as the Irish Faculty made it clear that they rely on the integrity of applicants who wish to the take examination," it added before confirming the medic would be struck off.
Last night, RCPI told the Irish Independent: "We considered it appropriate to refer the matter to the regulatory authorities in the UK (GMC) and we support their decision."
The college would not clarify if the medic had passed the exam when he sat it for an eighth time.
Tribunal notes show the college has changed its registration policy as a result of the case.