GP censured after patient diagnosed with vertigo when he had suffered a stroke

Fitness to Practise Committee had made findings of poor professional performance

Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Photograph Nick Bradshaw


A patient was diagnosed by his GP as having vertigo when he had suffered a stroke, on the basis of an examination carried out some eight hours after the doctor was asked to visit the man at home where he had collapsed, the High Court has heard.

Mr Justice Mark Sanfey agreed on Thursday that the GP, Dr Niall O Cleirigh, should be censured with conditions attached to his registration.

A Medical Council Fitness to Practise Committee had made findings of poor professional performance against Dr O Cleirigh over the delay in visiting his patient on January 18th, 2015, failure to adequately examine him and failure to properly consider whether there was a neurological cause for his condition. Dr O Cleirigh was also found guilty of poor professional performance arising from having prescribed blood pressure medication for the patient between September 2008 and November 2014 without seeing and reviewing the patient on most occasions over that period.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Sanfey said he considered the Medical Council’s sanction of Dr O Cleirigh, with conditions attached, was appropriate and he saw no good reason not to confirm it.

The order against Dr O Cleirigh, with an address in Rathmines, was sought by JP McDowell, solicitor for the council. Mr McDowell said the Medical Practitioners Act provides, where a doctor does not appeal a council decision, the council should apply to the High Court to confirm the sanction.

He said Dr O Cleirigh is registered as a specialist in the area of general practice and practises at Pearse Street primary care centre, Dublin 2, and also with an after hours service. The doctor had been treating the patient in this case, a man aged in his 60s, since 2008 and had been prescribing him medicines since then. The man had collapsed in his home on January 18th, 2015 and was found by his wife. His son phoned Dr O Cleirigh about 10.15am. The doctor was working that day for an out of hours agency and did not see the patient until about 6pm when he diagnosed him as suffering from vertigo and prescribed tablets.

Hours later, about 3am the following day, the man’s family summoned an ambulance to take him to a Dublin hospital where he was diagnosed as suffering from a significant stroke, Mr McDowell said.

He was not discharged from hospital for about six months.

The family made a complaint to the Medical Council and that resulted in a hearing before the Fitness to Practise Committee where Dr O Cleirigh made various admissions. The committee made findings of poor professional performance concerning the delay in seeing the patient in January 2015, the failure to carry out an adequate examination and the prescription of medication from 2008 to 2014 without regular clinical review.

Having considered the committee’s report last month, the council decided the doctor should be censured with conditions attached to his registration. These include that he must work with a nominated person to formulate a professional development plan designed to address deficiencies in his practice concerning record keeping, clinical diagnosis, safe prescribing of drugs and ongoing clinical review and monitoring of patients with chronic diseases.