NHS Fife acted too hastily in firing consultant Dr Alan Stockman despite his “history” of alcohol-related problems at work, an employment appeal tribunal has ruled.
Stockman, 42, from Edinburgh, was stopped by police who saw him driving erratically on the M90 in May 2012.
The pathologist, who was incoherent and so drunk he could not open the car door, was banned from driving for two years at Dunfermline Sheriff Court.
The General Medical Council suspended him from working for 18 months and NHS Fife sacked him from his £48,000-a-year job in September 2012.
The tribunal in Edinburgh heard that Stockman was twice investigated over “alcohol problems” that arose at work in each year between 2007 and 2009.
Carole Whittingham, spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Drink Driving, said Stockman should have been jailed.
She said: “The man was a danger to other drivers and himself, in this instance a six-month custodial sentence would not have been unreasonable and would have allowed him to take stock of what he did and the devastation he could have wrought.
“What worries me is a two-year licence ban has been imposed but he’ll be able to drive after that and if he’s not been treated properly for his alcohol problem he’ll be a danger again.”
Stockman’s lawyers persuaded a panel that his employer should have kept him on full pay while he tried to overcome his alcohol addiction.
NHS Fife appealed, arguing that it was unreasonable for it to have to pay another consultant to fill in for Stockman while he was suspended.
However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Edinburgh upheld the original judgment, ruling that NHS Fife had “not acted fairly in all circumstances”.
It accepted the original decision that NHS Fife should have taken evidence on Stockman’s prospects of being rehabilitated.
Stockman was fined £2,000 for his drunken driving in 2012.
He had consumed so much alcohol he had 136 microgrammes in 100 millilitres of breath.
Stockman’s lawyers argued that the doctor, who had worked for NHS Fife in Kirkcaldy for six years, would have been treated differently if he had suffered “a broken leg or heart attack”.
They said the GMC would have lifted his suspension early when shown he had recovered from his addiction.
NHS Fife insisted that his GMC suspension meant “he could not carry out the job he had been employed to do”.