Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 17:28 UK

Gas inhaling doctor can practise

Jonathan Chahal
Dr Chahal worked at Ormskirk Hospital from August 2006 to July 2007

A doctor who inhaled "laughing gas" while on duty at a children's ward can continue to practise, the General Medical Council (GMC) has ruled.

The GMC panel ruled Dr Jonathan Chahal's fitness to practise was "impaired by reason of misconduct" at Ormskirk Hospital, where he worked.

The senior house officer used medical anaesthetic Entonox from a gas canister on four occasions in summer 2007.

He must abide by GMC conditions for the next year in order to practise.

The hearing in Manchester included a promise that Dr Chahal will confine himself to NHS hospital posts and must be supervised by a named consultant for the next 12 months.

'Entonox party'

Panel chairman Ralph Bergmann told Dr Chahal: "The panel is particularly reassured by the uneventful and indeed satisfactory manner in which you have carried out your professional duties during the past seven months.

"In all the circumstances, the panel has determined that, in this particular case, the public interest would be better served by imposing restrictions on your registration, than by suspending it."

The hearing had been told that Dr Chahal also persuaded seven nurses to inhale Entonox, commonly used in childbirth, at the same time as him.

One of the occasions was described as an "Entonox party" which took place over a two-hour period.

In evidence, Dr Peter Burdett-Smith, a consultant emergency physician at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, had warned about the potential danger of a doctor using Entonox while on duty.

'Impair function'

He said: "When you are on duty in the emergency department you never know what is going to turn up next and you have to be ready to deal with any emergency."

Although Entonox was not illegal, it could impair function, Mr Burdett-Smith added.

Dr Chahal was employed by Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals NHS Trust between August 2006 and July 2007.

He had told the fitness to practise panel he was fortunate he did not harm any of his patients and that he was "incredibly foolish".

No children were affected by this incident and, due to the seriousness of it, his employers, Alder Hey, dealt with the disciplinary matter
Spokesman for Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust

He argued he had made "a lot of progress" since the incidents, was now confident there was no risk to himself or the public and would never repeat his behaviour.

Dr Chahal was sacked from Alder Hey Children's Hospital, in Liverpool, where he was employed when the allegations emerged.

The hearing heard that he now worked at Preston Royal Infirmary, where senior colleagues said they had no concerns or doubts over his professional behaviour and integrity.

A spokesman for Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust said: "Dr Jonathan Chahal was working as a locum at Ormskirk and District General Hospital when he was seen to be inhaling Entonox gas.

"No children were affected by this incident and, due to the seriousness of it, his employers, Alder Hey, dealt with the disciplinary matter and he has not been employed at this trust since."

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