"he stood in front of me and placed his hand around my throat"
A hospital doctor who grabbed an NHS nurse by the throat and sexually harassed other staff has been suspended.
Dr Mubashsher Muhammed, who worked at Stepping Hill Hospital’s A&E, appeared before a tribunal after being referred by the General Medical Council, which reprimanded him for his “deplorable sexual harassment” of two colleagues.
He claimed it was “banter” and that he is a “tactile individual” who wanted to “fit in”.
Both nurses say he treated their requests for him to stop as jokes.
The incidents took place in April 2021.
During one instance, Dr Muhammed cornered Nurse A and “blocked” her from getting to the female staff changing room.
He “placed his hand on the front of her throat”, “tightened his grip around her neck”, “kept her backed up against the wall”, saying “when are you going to give in and give me your number?”
Nurse A felt a sense of “dread” seeing Dr Muhammed just before he grabbed her.
Prior to the incident, she described Dr Muhammed’s behaviour towards her as “relentless” and that she was feeling “extremely uncomfortable and found [herself] walking around the department the long way around just to avoid him”.
In a written statement, Nurse A said:
“As I opened the door [to get to the female changing rooms] Dr Muhammed was there, he jumped and said a remark about him making me jump.
“As I continued towards the female changing room, he stood in front of me and placed his hand around my throat, my back was against the wall at this point.
“I recoiled, he did not, and with his hand still around my throat said, ‘when are you going to give in and give me your number?’”
She was left stunned and shaken and in fear that no one would believe her if she reported it.
Nurse A did not report the exchange for three months as she felt it would “cause her trouble” professionally.
The tribunal found that the doctor’s behaviour during the throat-grabbing incident was “an opportunistic event, rather than premeditated”.
Nurse B described how the doctor laughed while she asked him to stop touching her.
According to the nurse, he “massaged her shoulders” and “pinched her waist”.
She added that asking how his wife would feel about his “flirting” did not stop his behaviour.
In his defence, Dr Muhammed claimed that Nurse B’s story had been fabricated after he “rebuffed” her advances.
But the tribunal said this was “unlikely”.
The doctor conceded that it was possible that he did squeeze her shoulders in a “friendly gesture” but that he did so with all colleagues.
He claimed he was a “tactile person” and that he “had not appreciated that this would be perceived to be inappropriate in the circumstances in which it was meant”.
The GMC said Dr Muhammed’s behaviour amounted to “serious misconduct”.
Dr Muhammed’s representatives said:
“This case was at the lower end of the scale of seriousness of sexual misconduct’ and that the doctor has since attended courses on ‘professional boundaries’.”
The representative also “submitted that this was not a case that involved sexual misconduct towards patients”.
Dr Muhammed denied the claims but the tribunal found it to be “proved”.
The tribunal found: “Whilst not condoning the conduct of Dr Muhammed, the tribunal accepted his evidence that there was a culture of ‘banter’ and that he had joined in.
“The tribunal inferred his behaviour may well have arisen as Dr Muhammed had been emboldened by the ‘banter’ and the culture of the department between other doctors and nurses, who were much more long-standing colleagues.
“He was new. He had, however, taken it much further by behaving the way that he did.”
Both nurses acknowledged a culture of ‘banter’ in their evidence.
Dr Muhammed was suspended for nine months.
The tribunal added:
“Dr Muhammed’s behaviour towards both nurses amounts to sexual harassment.”
“He created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment for them to work in.
“Dr Muhammed treated both nurses’ requests to stop as a joke, he did not stop and both nurses complained to the trust.”
The report slammed the doctor by saying:
“This was conduct that any professional would know was wholly unacceptable. More than that, it could readily be described as deplorable…
“The incident outside the changing rooms was especially shocking. He caused Nurse A to be frightened.
“She was obviously vulnerable and feared the consequences of raising a complaint. He had seriously undermined the reputation of the medical profession as a whole.”
In a further statement issued by Medical Protection Society representatives, Dr Muhammed said:
“I am disappointed with the tribunal’s findings and will be taking time to reflect on the outcome and consider my options.”