Anger as NHS children's doctor suspended for six months after using wife's TfL travel card to travel London for free

23 March 2023, 14:00

Dr James Ip has been suspended for six months
Dr James Ip has been suspended for six months. Picture: Twitter/Alamy

By Kit Heren

An NHS doctor at Great Ormond Street Hospital has been suspended from his job for six months after using his wife's free Transport for London (TfL) travel card.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Dr James Ip was found to have acted dishonestly by an investigation by the British Medical Council. The regulator said his actions risked undermining the reputation of the profession.

But other NHS workers said the suspension was unfair, because he had not put any patients at risk by using the free travel card, Mail Online reported.

They said the punishment could hurt patients by taking a doctor out of service at a time of huge backlogs after the pandemic.

Dr Ip, an experienced doctor who qualified more than 20 years ago, is a consultant paediatric cardiac anaesthetist at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Dr James Ip
Dr James Ip. Picture: Twitter

He was caught using a TfL travel card at Hammersmith Station on February 7 last year. He admitted using the travel card 54 more times between December 13, 2021 and February 4, 2022. It is unclear why his wife has a free travel pass, although TfL employees are given them.

He paid a £500 fine, as well as £297 in costs.

The GMC said that the doctor's actions did not pose any danger to patients, that he was well-respected professionally, and there is no evidence his work fell below the required standards.

But he broke the rules repeatedly and represented a significant breach of the GMC's code: "You must make sure that your conduct justifies your patient’s trust in you and the public’s trust in the profession."

Dr Ip is a consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital
Dr Ip is a consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Picture: Alamy

Dr Ip said that he used the travel card partly out of anger that NHS staff had to pay to get around on public transport during the pandemic.

But he added: "I see now that this rationalisation was illogical, immoral and wrong.

"I recognise that fare evasion is a form of theft and free loading from other passengers and there was no excuse for not paying for my tickets. 

"I have since admitted my wrongdoing and apologised to Transport for London for my conduct."

Half of Dr Ip's journeys on the travel card were for personal reasons not related to his job, the GMC pointed out. The dates of his breaches were after lockdowns were lifted.

NHS strikes suspended after new pay offer

The tribunal sided with the GMC over Dr Ip, saying: "On each occasion the tribunal determined that Dr Ip must have known that what he was doing was wrong, but he did not stop until he was caught."

The panel ruled that a six-month suspension was appropriate, adding: "He has breached one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession by acting dishonestly."

Some of Dr Ip's fellow doctors reacted with fury to the ruling.

Read more: Senior Tory MP under investigation by parliamentary watchdog over claims he lobbied head of NHS

Read more: Strike action paused as NHS unions and government reach deal on pay

Neurologist Dr David Nicholl wrote: "Dear parent, Gt Ormond St are REALLY sorry but your child’s heart op is delayed 6 months… as our cardiac anaesthetist has been suspended 6 months by the GMC for using his wife’s Oyster card, for which he was already fined, we’re sure you’ll be pleased with this".

Caller waited three years for an operation with the NHS

Dr Matt Bigwood of the Doctors’ Association UK said: "We at The Doctors’ Association UK are again left shocked and angered by the actions of the GMC,' he said. 

"The suspension of six months for Dr Ip for the offence committed is totally disproportionate, with other much more serious offences (e.g. drink driving and sexual offences) often getting commensurate suspensions. 

"He has already admitted to the fraud, shown remorse and accepted the punishment."

But others backed the suspension

Dr Joel Giblett, a cardiologist at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: "You can’t dishonestly commit fraud repeatedly over an extended course and think there’s no consequence. It wasn’t a one off. It only stopped when he was caught."

Kathye King, who said her child was awaiting surgery at Great Ormond Street, said she supported the suspension. 

"Quite honestly I would prefer a member of staff who was honest because if someone is willing to break the law over one thing means they are likely to be doing so elsewhere," she said.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Unit has launched a murder investigation in the affulent commuter town Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

Murder investigation launched and man, 39, arrested after woman, 40, found fatally injured in Beaconsfield

Stan Bowles, QPR legend and former England 'maverick', dies age 75 following battle with Alzheimer's disease

Stan Bowles, QPR legend and former England 'maverick' footballer, dies age 75 following battle with Alzheimer's disease

Three female MPs have been issued with bodyguards and cars amid growing concern for politicians' safety

Three female MPs issued with 'taxpayer-funded bodyguards and cars' amid growing safety concerns

A picture of Alexei Navalny next to flowers in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin

Body of Russian opposition leader Navalny handed over to his mother, aide says

Destroyed residential buildings in Rafah

Israeli officials to meet over proposed pause in Gaza fighting

Wendy Williams thanks supporters for 'love and kind words' after she is diagnosed with same rare form of dementia as Bruce Willis

Wendy Williams thanks supporters for 'love and kind words' after she is diagnosed with same rare form of dementia as Bruce Willis

Competitors battle in a muddy pool at the Florida Man Games

Tank-topped teams compete in spoof sporting event in Florida

Residents voting in the South Carolina Republican primary

Trump enters South Carolina primary looking to embarrass Haley in her home state

Children are seen in a building destroyed in an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, February 22

'Progress' made in Gaza ceasefire talks after Hamas 'drop some of its demands' that could see Israeli hostages released

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Brazilian president accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza

Alexei Navalny's body handed to mother after 'three-hour ultimatum' over late Russian opposition figure's burial

Alexei Navalny's body handed to mother after 'three-hour ultimatum' over late Russian opposition figure's burial

French President Emmanuel Macron at the agriculture fair

Macron booed by French farmers as he visits Paris agricultural fair

Volodymyr Zelensky

Western leaders arrive in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Lee Anderson has been suspended for his comments about Sadiq Khan

Lee Anderson suspended from Conservative Party after claiming 'Islamists have control of Sadiq Khan'

Wet weather is expected on Sunday and Monday

Fears of travel chaos on Sunday and Monday amid heavy rain, as yellow weather warning issued

Jesse Baird and Luke Davies have not been seen since Monday

Police in desperate riverbed hunt for missing TV presenter and boyfriend, as cop ex-lover accused of murder