THE tribunal investigating a former out-of-hours doctor in Croydon has been halted after one of the panel deciding the case was accused of being biased. It means the inquiry into Dr Ravi Sondhi is unlikely to conclude by its deadline of July 26 and may have to start all over again at a later date. Mary O'Rourke, defending the former Croydon Doctors on Call (Croydoc) director, applied for Dr Keith Dunnett to be withdrawn over concerns about his questioning of three witnesses and his alleged failure to disclose he was a director of a Lincolnshire out-of-hours service as well as other limited companies. The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service panel decided a 'fair-minded informed observer' could conclude Dr Dunnett was biased and ruled that he should be replaced. A substitute panel member will now have to be found if the hearing is to continue or the case may be re-listed at a later date to be heard from the beginning by a new panel. Panel Chair Dr Elaine Melrose said: "The panel recognises that the fair-minded informed observer could conclude that there is a real possibility that Dr Dunnett was biased. "However, there was some residual doubt in the minds of the members of the panel as to what such an informed fair-minded observer would conclude. "If there is any doubt about the matter that doubt should be resolved in favour of the party making the application, in this case Dr Sondhi. "The panel therefore accepts your application that Dr Dunnett be recused from this panel." Former Purley-based Dr Sondhi, 52, is accused of abusing his position as the financial director of Croydon Doctors on Call (Croydoc) and taking £100,000 from the NHS-funded out-of-hours service. He often ignored phone calls at his home in Fakenham, Norfolk, when he was supposed to be on duty, forcing patients to go to A&E, the tribunal in Manchester has been told. The hearing continues
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