Drink-drive doc awarded £70k for unfair dismissal

Alan Stockman had a history of alcohol troubles. Picture: Helen Peck
Alan Stockman had a history of alcohol troubles. Picture: Helen Peck
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A DOCTOR who was sacked after he was caught driving to work while nearly four times the legal limit is set to pocket more than £70,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal.

An employment appeal tribunal has ruled that health chiefs were “too hasty” in firing alcoholic consultant Dr Alan Stockman, despite a history of booze-related problems at work.

The 44-year-old, of Clarendon Crescent in Stockbridge, was stopped by police when they saw him driving his BMW erratically on the busy M90 in May 2012.

Stockman, a leading pathologist who was so drunk he could not even open the driver’s door, was given a two-year driving ban at Dunfermline Sheriff Court in July 2012.

The General Medical Council suspended him from working for 18 months and Stockman was sacked from his £48,000-a-year job that September.

The original employment tribunal heard that Stockman, who worked in Kirkcaldy, was twice investigated over “alcohol problems” that arose at work in each year between 2007 and 2009.

But Stockman’s lawyers persuaded a panel that his employer should have kept him on full pay while he tried to overcome his alcohol addiction.

NHS Fife appealed, arguing that it was unreasonable to have to pay another consultant to fill in for Stockman while he was suspended.

But the employment appeal tribunal has now upheld the original judgment, ruling that NHS Fife had “not acted fairly in all the circumstances”.

It accepted the original decision that NHS Fife should have taken medical evidence on Stockman’s prospects of being rehabilitated.

Stockman’s lawyer, Jim Warnock, accused NHS Fife of a “lack of care and compassion” and said he expected his client to be awarded the maximum damages for unfair dismissal.

The taxpayer will also end up footing the bill for NHS Fife’s considerable legal costs.

Mr Warnock said: “My client was five weeks into a programme to cure his alcoholism when he was dealt with by NHS Fife in a very arbitrary way without any care or compassion.

“He has not had an alcoholic drink since the day of his arrest. But he has not been able to get another job because he has had to tell health authorities that he has all this experience but had a hiccup in his career.

“When you include lost pension rights, he is out of pocket by around £200,000. I believe he will therefore get the maximum compensation allowed of just over £70,000.”

Stockman, who is originally from Belfast, was fined £2000 for his drink-drive incident in May 2012. He had claimed to police that his last drink had been 17 hours before he failed a roadside breath test.

During the tribunal, Stockman’s lawyers argued that the doctor would have been treated differently if he had suffered “a broken leg or heart attack”.

And they said the GMC would have lifted his suspension early when shown he had recovered from his addiction.

NHS Fife’s medical director, Dr Brian Montgomery, said: “We are unable to comment on individual members of staff past or present. However, we are aware of the judgement made in this case.”