A doctor who sexually harassed two female nurses has avoided suspension after a judge deemed it would be a “disproportionate” punishment.
In 2020, Dr Nour Rezk sent unwanted sexually explicit messages to two nurses he had formerly worked with at a hospital in Devon via social media despite being asked to stop. He sent images of his genitals to one of the nurses.
“The sanction of conditions would be seen by the public and the profession as an ongoing marker of disapproval of Dr Rezk’s misconduct”
Mrs Justice Lang
A Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearing, earlier this year, found Dr Rezk’s practice to be impaired, but deemed no strike off, suspension or conditions should be imposed because of “exceptional circumstances”, including the impact Covid-19 and the doctor’s loneliness at the time.
The General Medical Council (GMC), which regulates doctors, appealed this decision and asked for Dr Rezk to instead be suspended from practice.
This appeal, which was overseen in the High Court by Mrs Justice Lang, agreed the tribunal had failed to give sufficient weight to the need for a punishment to maintain public confidence in the medical profession.
However, the court opted to give Dr Rezk conditions on his practice for one year and not suspend him from the GMC’s register, as the regulator had submitted should happen.
Under these conditions, Dr Rezk would be permitted to work as a doctor but with supervision and a requirement to “work on his attitude towards female colleagues”. He will also need to have a personal development plan put in place.
The judge said that a suspension posed a “real risk” to the retention of Dr Rezk as a doctor due to the precarity of a training contract with his current employer.
Mrs Justice Lang said a suspension would not be necessary to meet the overarching objective of GMC’s tribunal process, which is to maintain public confidence, and that it would go against the public interest of retaining competent doctors.
She said that, in her judgement, the conditions imposed on the doctor would suffice: “[They] are an appropriate way of addressing his shortcomings in this regard, and reinforcing the progress that he has already made.
“In my judgment, the sanction of conditions would be seen by the public and the profession as an ongoing marker of disapproval of Dr Rezk’s misconduct…whilst providing a constructive response to his shortcomings.
“The decision in this case, and the conditions imposed, will remain on Dr Rezk’s record, and be publicly available on the GMC website for 10 years from the date when the sanction expires.”
The judge continued that this, as a result, would meet the GMC’s objectives, adding: “In my view, conditions are a proportionate sanction which strike an appropriate balance between the interests of Dr Rezk and the public interest.”
The judge further said: “Such an order would also meet the public interest in training and retaining competent doctors.
“The other sanctions proposed – no further action or suspension – do not provide for any remediation.
“Imposition of conditions does not carry with it the risk that he will lose his training contract, which I consider would be a disproportionate response to his misconduct.”