Doctor suspended for 'refusing to have performance assessment' after concerns about his 'lack of knowledge' at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

A doctor who failed to attend a performance assessment after questions were raised over his "professional performance, including his lack of knowledge, performance, and attitude", has been suspended for 12 months.

By Michael Holmes
Monday, 16th September 2019, 4:12 pm
Blackpool Victoria Hospital
Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Dr Mihai Balanica was ordered to take the test after medics at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where he worked as an agency heart medic, flagged their concern.

Similar worries were raised about his "skills, experience, and understanding" by the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS trust, which runs hospitals in Blackburn, Burnley, Clitheroe, Accrington, and Pendle.

But Balanica, who qualified from the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Romania in 1979, never showed up for the test - citing cash troubles and his lack of desire to work in the UK again, and even the stress of the proceedings.

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A panel from the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) said: "The tribunal has determined that, given the serious performance issues raised, it is necessary for the protection of members of the public and in the public interest to suspend Dr Balanica's registration forthwith."

The GMC was told concerns had been raised by agency firm DRC Locums about Balanica's performance at the Vic in July 2016.

That was followed by correspondence from East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust two months later.

Balanica was then repeatedly asked to attend a performance assessment during discussions that went on from November 2016 to January this year.

A hearing was arranged after he blamed a number of issues, including "financial difficulties" that meant he couldn't afford flights from Spain, where he worked; his reluctance to return to the UK for employment; stress; and another issue that was redacted in tribunal documents.

It heard evidence from a heart consultant at the Vic, who was named only as Dr A and "set out concerns which had come to light during a ward round" with Balanica, including a "failure to work effectively and/or collaboratively with colleagues, inadequate ward-round notes, a failure to recognise what was wrong with a patient, refusal to discuss a case with microbiology, and standards of hygiene" - specifically that he wore the same gloves throughout the ward round.

"Dr A was of the opinion that Dr Balanica was not ready to be employed in the NHS in any capacity and certainly not as a cardiology SHO [senior house officer]," the tribunal said.

The East Lancashire NHS Trust also said Balanica was out-of-his-depth, saying he "would need significant supervision before he reached a level consistent with working at the level expected of a junior ward doctor".

The allegations were of such concern that both agency positions were terminated early, the tribunal was told.

Dr Balanica provided a detailed response to the allegations made against him by Dr A, and said he does not accept any of the criticisms made.

The GMC argued the request for Balanica to have a performance assessment was "reasonable given the circumstances of the case and the detailed concerns expressed, by two separate hospitals, regarding Dr Balanica's knowledge, performance, and attitude."

It said that "despite frequent requests as to why it is he is unable to attend the personal assessment, he had "failed to provide any good reason".

The tribunal said asking for the test was "reasonable" and "proportionate as the allegations were sufficiently serious". It would have "been an objective way of assessing Dr Balanica's performance and would assist the GMC in further investigating matters".

It said it "determined that Br Balanica has explicitly refused to comply" and that "the concerns identified present a risk to patient safety and adversely affect the public interest".