Dr Colin Gelder, 59, of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, faced being struck off after a 35 year career in medicine after he was found guilty of sexually motivated misconduct. But he was today given a two month suspension at a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in Manchester (he is pictured outside)
A senior doctor who groped a nurse while on duty has been told he can keep his job after blaming his behaviour on exposure to a household animal spray.
Dr Colin Gelder, 59, of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, groped the woman at University Hospital in Coventry at around 9am on September 1, 2017.
He said he had become ‘euphoric’ after inhaling herbal fumes from a Pet Remedy plug diffuser he used at home to calm his pet dogs.
The Valerian fumes, a herb used in Pet Remedy products, mixed adversely with his hayfever medication and made him ‘feel like Superman’, he claimed.
During the encounter the nurse, aged 55, looked round after being touched by the married father-of-two to see him smiling back at her.
He was subsequently seen to be laughing when she bumped into him as she picked up medical supplies from a fridge.
When she told him the only person allowed to touch her bottom was her husband, Gelder replied: ‘Well, he’s a very lucky man’.
Later during the same shift, Gelder a consultant respiratory physician who had worked at University Hospital in Coventry in the West Midlands since 2009 shocked another female colleague aged 60 by telling her: ‘You’re sexy when you are cross’.
He faced being struck off after a 35 year career in medicine after he was found guilty of sexually motivated misconduct. But he was today given a two month suspension at a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in Manchester.
He denied the charge blaming his behaviour on inhaling the herb Valerian which is used is used in Pet Remedy products to calm his dogs when they get anxious during thunderstorms. He is expected to return to work in December.
Gelder blamed his behaviour on inhaling the herb Valerian which is used is used in Pet Remedy products to calm his dogs when they get anxious during thunderstorms
The Valerian fumes, a herb used in Pet Remedy products (such as the one pictured), mixed adversely with his hayfever medication and made him ‘feel like Superman’, he claimed
At the Medical Practitioners Tribunal in Manchester, panel chairman Mrs Jayne Wheat said: ‘Dr Gelder asserted that there was no element of sexual motivation in his behaviour because he said at the time that it was a joke, that he was laughing and started to tell everyone immediately what he’d done.
‘Dr Gelder said that as this all happened in plain sight and that, as he was joking, this precluded his actions from being sexually motivated.
‘The Tribunal was of the view that sexual motivation does not have to depend on an element of secrecy. Nor does joking behaviour prevent there being a sexual element to actions or words.
‘But the conduct was an uncharacteristic incident of fleeting sexual gratification. If there was an element of sexual disinhibition in the conduct of Dr Gelder it seemed to occur only over a short period of time.
‘The Tribunal gave weight to some of the mitigating factors namely the conduct being completely out of character, the fleeting nature of the sexual motivation and the conduct being at the lower end of the spectrum.
‘While serious, this was not conduct that was fundamentally incompatible with continued registration. This was an uncharacteristic isolated incident, at the lower end of the spectrum of cases involving sexual misconduct and there is a low risk of repetition.
‘Suspension of two months would afford Dr Gelder time to further reflect, particularly on the finding of the sexual motivation.
‘Part of protecting the public interest is not to deprive the public of an otherwise good doctor and we took account of this when deciding the length of the suspension.
‘While the Tribunal were fully aware there are absolutely no issues of clinical concerns in this case, it was reassured by Dr Gelder’s plans for any possible return to work as they were comprehensive, workable and realistic.’
The incident occurred while the nurse, known as Miss A, was doing her morning rounds.
Alan Taylor, lawyer for the General Medical Council, said: ‘She was at her drug trolley and was so focused on doing her round, she did not notice any other staff around.
‘The next minute, as she was leaning over the trolley, she felt a hard squeeze to the left buttock and she turned around and saw Dr Gelder looking directly at her and smiling.
‘She was immediately and totally shocked, she walked round to the ward manager’s office and an impromptu fact finding meeting took place that day.
‘Nurse A told the meeting Dr Gelder’s actions made her feel really dirty, she said it was disgusting and she felt violated.
‘She said: “It is not what you would expect from anyone, let alone a work colleague.”
‘She decided to continue with her duties and returned to her patients but said the incident was in the back of her mind.
‘She told a junior doctor who told her she could not believe what Dr Gelder had just done.
‘The junior doctor said she had seen it too and she had seen his hand go behind Nurse A’s buttock. She thought it was disgusting.’
In his defence evidence Dr Gelder (pictured outside the Medical Practitioners Tribunal in Manchester) told the hearing he had apologised to both women in writing and had also a attended a course on maintaining professional boundaries
Nurse A then said she did not want to speak to Dr Gelder, nor work or see him again, Mr Taylor continued.
‘When she got to the fridge to pick up some medication for a patient, Dr Gelder was at the fridge and he said: “Oh, just got her”.
‘He was laughing and she was in shock and found it inappropriate and not funny, so she walked away.
‘Before she walked away she told him the only person allowed to do that to her was her husband and he replied “Well, he’s a very lucky man”. ‘
The hearing was told the second incident occurred later that same day after another female colleague known as Miss B wanted to speak to Dr Gelder about patients who had been treated the previous day.
Mr Taylor added: ‘She told him the patients were not assessed properly downstairs and he had not written in the notes.
‘They discussed this and Dr Gelder responded saying: “You’re sexy when you are cross”.
‘Miss B was surprised and taken aback as he had not spoken to her in that way before. He then walked away.
‘He accepts he squeezed the nurse’s bottom whilst undertaking the ward round and accepts saying the inappropriate comment “you’re sexy when you are cross”.
‘However, he does not accept his actions were sexually motivated saying he never had any such conscious thought and that it was an immature intention to behave in a jokey way.
‘He thought it could possibly be a reaction to a substance called Valerian, which can be found in Pet Remedy and thought it could possibly be a reaction with the antihistamine he was taking.’
The tribunal was told an oral dose of 70ml of Valerian also called Fexofenadine had been shown in reports to alter excitability.
Medical expert Dr Johann Grundlingh said: ‘We know already that the potential effects of Fexofenadine could include delirium and stimulation and it is well known that drugs causing delirium and stimulation may lead to sexually disinhibition and inappropriate behaviour.
‘Thus, a mild delirium and stimulation caused by Fexofenadine may have led to a degree of disinhibition and inappropriate behaviour, but this conclusion is more tenuous than my previous conclusion stating that Fexofenadine may have explained his symptoms of ‘mind racing, dizziness, fainting, abnormal dreams, restlessness and nausea.’
In his defence evidence Dr Gelder, who has also been a Clinical Lead for a project which helps COPD sufferers, told the hearing he had apologised to both women in writing and had also a attended a course on maintaining professional boundaries.
He said: ‘I had arrived at work at 8am and was experiencing feelings of euphoria. At the time I thought I could do anything and I thought I was Superman. I think if it was a male nurse I even would have done the same to them too.
‘I know it was a disgusting thing to do but it’s never happened before. I just woke up feeling euphoric.
‘I told the Trust I would happily expose myself to Pet Remedy again to confirm the effects.
‘I was absolutely stunned at what happened. I have never behaved in that way before or since. Touching her bottom was inappropriate, it was a stupid idea and a practical joke.
But in a statement, the nurse said: ‘What Dr Gelder did to me made me feel dirty and cheap, he shouldn’t have done it as when I explained to him that he shouldn’t have done that to me, he responded by saying my husband is a lucky man.
‘It’s disgusting. It was very difficult for me but I found the urge to stand up to him. I don’t want to see him again.’