A former NHS England director and GP has been removed from the medical register after he was convicted of downloading hundreds of indecent images of children.
Dr Robert Varnam was sentenced on May 4 last year at Manchester Magistrates’ Court after more than 200 indecent images of children were found on his devices, according to an investigative agency. Judgment of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPTS).
MPTS said concerns were initially raised by Greater Manchester Police with the GMC in December 2020, following Dr Varnam’s arrest.
In reaching the conclusion that the sentence ‘was a serious deviation from the standards expected of a doctor’, the court ‘had regard to the nature and severity’ of Dr Varnam’s sentence .
The MPTS ruling said: ‘It should be noted that more than 200 indecent images of children were found on his device and the majority of the images depicted children aged between eight and 12 years old. .
‘Two of the images were category A, which is the most serious category of indecent images, involving penetrative sexual activity.
’13 of the images were category B, involving non-invasive sexual activity, and the remaining images were category C, being indecent images of children that did not fall within category A or B.’
The court documents also say that ‘in relation to the “risks” that led to his offending’, Dr Varnam explained in his witness statement that before his arrest, ‘he had working very long hours in my clinical role’.
“He often worked up to 75 hours per week, rarely took a break, and neglected to take care of himself,” the document said. He said he initially viewed nude photos of children, but later downloaded indecent images of children.”
The court added that despite Dr Varnam’s treatment and ‘low risk of reoffending’, ‘there is no doubt that the public would be appalled to learn that a registered doctor was convicted of commit illegal acts. [downloading] indecent images of children’.
It concluded that Dr Varnam’s fitness to practice was ‘impaired as a result of the conviction’ and decided to remove his name from the medical register.
The judgment added: ‘Removing Dr Varnam’s name from the medical register means that he will no longer be able to practice medicine (should he wish to do so at some point in the future).
‘However, the court balanced the aggravating and mitigating circumstances and concluded that expungement was an appropriate and proportionate sanction in all the circumstances.’
At the time of the events relating to the proceedings, Dr Varnam was practicing as a GP at the Robert Darbishire Clinic and was also director of general practice development for the NHS England.
He appeared at Manchester Crown Court for sentence and was sentenced on July 13 last year to a two-year community order, rehabilitation activity requirement, 150 hours of unpaid work to be completed within 12 months, requires registration with the police according to regulations. with the Sexual Offenses Act 2003 and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order in place for five years.
Dr Varnam qualified in 1995 and practiced as a junior doctor at various hospitals around Manchester before taking up roles as a GP registrar and then as a paid GP principal salary at Robert Darbishire Practice.
He has also served as director of general practice development and clinical lead on transforming primary care, both for NHS England.
During this time, he appeared in Pulse, including Pulse Power 50, and spoke at Pulse LIVE events.
A GMC spokesperson told Pulse: ‘GMC referred the case to the MPTS, which took place in January 2024. The GMC submitted an application for the sanction to be removed, arguing that the sentence was fundamentally inconsistent with the proceeding Registration and deletion are the only appropriate and proportionate means of approval.
‘An independent medical practitioners tribunal found that Dr Robert Varnam’s ability to practice was impaired by his criminal conviction and decided to remove him from the medical register.
‘Any doctor has the right to appeal against a medical practitioners tribunal decision made against them under Section 40 of the Medical Act 1983. They must lodge an appeal within 28 days of being notified of the court decisions.’
Pulse has also approached NHS England for comment.
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