MANCHESTER — A junior doctor who faced career ruin over a panic-fuelled meltdown sparked by fears he would be late for work kept his job on Friday after a disciplinary panel ruled he did not pose a risk to patients.
Dr Andrew Sadler, 24, was arrested by police after he drove the wrong way around a roundabout and hurled himself ''starfish'' fashion onto the bonnet of a police patrol car during a 1am rampage.
He had been due to turn in for a shift at a hospital but kept waking up and tossing and turning in bed in the belief he would not make it in on time. Eventually he got up in a sleep deprived haze and drove his Vauxhall Astra around the roundabout the wrong way in the dark with no lights on then overtook a car at 70mph narrowly missing a pedestrian island.
When traffic officers were alerted to his driving near an Asda supermarket in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, Dr Sadler stopped his car at the side of the road, sprinted barefoot towards their patrol vehicle and threw himself on the bonnet with his arms and legs outstretched "like a starfish''.
Police had to handcuff the junior medic and commented on him being incoherent and confused.
Dr Sadler was later tested for drugs and alcohol but none was found in his system. In May last year the doctor, who lives in Gateshead was convicted of dangerous driving and criminal damage to the police vehicle and was sentenced to 8 weeks jail suspended for 6 months by local magistrates. He was also banned from driving for 20 months.
At the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, Dr Sadler faced being struck off but a disciplinary panel said he was fit to continue practising medicine and imposed no sanction against him. He has been working in palliative care at the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton-on-Tees.
Panel Chairman David Clark told the Manchester hearing: ''There is no risk to patients in this case and there are no concerns with regard to Dr Sadler’s clinical practice.
''The Tribunal has seen no evidence that the care of his patients was put at risk or that his ability was compromised by his actions on that night. Testimonial evidence shows Dr Sadler is a highly-regarded young doctor at the early stages of his career and that he presents no risk to the health, safety and well-being of the public.
''Whilst the incident itself was serious, the tribunal had regard to the remorse and insight shown by Dr Sadler and noted that his behaviour on the night in question was out of character. He has done everything he possibly could do to remediate his actions and considers his conduct since the incident to be commendable.
''He has put in place a strong support network around him to assist him both clinically and personally in dealing with anxiety issues in the future. He has also changed his personal circumstances and made lifestyle changes as a result of these events in order to minimise the risk of repetition.''
Mr Clark added: ''The tribunal noted the positive accounts of Dr Sadler’s professionalism, integrity and commitment to patient care. He has continued to work in a challenging environment and Occupational Health have reported no concerns.
''Dr Sadler himself explained that it was his personal belief that he would never repeat his actions and there is no evidence to suggest any significant likelihood of recurrence.
''The Tribunal does not consider that a warning is necessary in Dr Sadler’s case to act as a deterrent to him in the future. His criminal conduct has already been marked by his conviction and sentence and this outcome is in the public domain.''
The incident occurred on October 4th 2018 just weeks after Dr Sadler, had completed his medical degree at Edinburgh University. He had got a post at a hospital but was in a panic as he feared being late for duty.
Dr Sadler told the hearing: “I feel great personal shame at having a criminal conviction. I had been trying to fall asleep and kept jolting awake and I kept wondering whether I thought I was sleeping in and being late for work. In the acutely anxious state I was in, I wasn’t thinking entirely rationally. I think if a member of the public were to hear the whole facts I believe they would have a degree of empathy.
''I would hope that they would sympathise with the situation, however I understand the severity of what happened. I got into the car around 1am having tried to go to bed before midnight. I had been tossing and turning in bed and not really getting to sleep.
“Looking back I was trying to think of a reason why I was panicking. But I now feel I have seen the positive effects of trainees recognising that it can be stressful for them as well as the supervising staff who I find very helpful and very friendly, I feel I can always speak to them if I need to.”
His lawyer Catherine Stock said: “He was in a panic and kept waking up as he thought he was going to be late for work. He wasn’t thinking straight, wasn’t acting as he normally would and had some sort of breakdown.
''He has changed his life around and he has worked with colleagues to get support. This is a young man, a dedicated young doctor with a lot to give.''
Timothy Gallagher is a journalist with the Cavendish Press Agency.
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Cite this: Late for Work Meltdown: Junior Doctor Keeps Job - Medscape - Feb 24, 2020.