A SENIOR GP has been struck off after she had an illicit sexual relationship with a patient, descended into drug abuse and ended up being caught driving with cocaine in her system.

Doctor Fran Sanders pursued a ‘wholly inappropriate’ relationship with the man despite receiving warnings from colleagues and admitting “this is very bad practice”.

The 47-year-old had forged a successful career and became partner at a medical centre, but her life unravelled when she became stressed and her marriage fell apart.

The respected GP embarked on a six-month relationship with her patient of seven years - who had a history of substance abuse and mental health issues - and even inappropriately prescribed him and his friend’s drugs.

She spiralled into drug use and in September 2019 was pulled over after police spotted her driving ‘erratically’ in Bournemouth.

Sanders was over the legal limit for cocaine and was later fined and disqualified from driving for a year after she was convicted at Poole Magistrates’ Court.

Now, Sanders, who practised at Westbourne Medical Centre, has been struck off the GMC register following a Medical Practitioners Tribunal.

The tribunal heard Sanders “was found driving oddly on a road. She was seen to stop the car in the middle of the road for a minute with no apparent reason”.

The doctor, who is a mother-of-two, claimed “I was vulnerable and taken advantage of by local drug dealers” at the time of her drug-drive arrest.

She said: “My partner was away and became extremely unwell. He was admitted to hospital. I believe this may have contributed significantly.

“I was vulnerable and taken advantage of by local drug dealers. At the time I was driving under duress and was very distressed.”

It was heard that around two years before, in October 2017, Sanders began her relationship with ‘Patient A’. Around the same time her marriage had broken down.

Despite achieving a “position of distinction”, she ignored warnings and “abused a position of trust” by starting the relationship with Patient A.

In an email to a colleague, she wrote: “Work may have informed you about a patient I become involved with.

“He was my patient for 7 yrs, got on a methadone program but no psychological therapy was offered due to commissioning restraints (sic).

“I worked closely with him and unfortunately feelings developed. We entered a relationship in Oct 17.

“I am obviously aware that this is v bad practice and I asked him to de-register in Dec 17 (sic).”

Despite Patient A no longer being her patient, Sanders continued to prescribe him drugs - including erectile dysfunction pills. She claimed he was abusive and she was scared into giving him and his friends prescriptions.

But, the tribunal heard Sanders showed a “blatant disregard for patient safety” and that “it was clear that she was putting her own interests before those of her patients”.

Concluding, tribunal chair Paul Moulder said: “The tribunal considered that Dr Sanders’s conduct in engaging in a sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient would undoubtedly be considered to be deplorable by fellow professionals and amounted to serious professional misconduct.

“In particular, the tribunal accepted the submission that, at the time that Dr Sanders had commenced the sexual relationship with Patient A, he had already become dependent on her for his prescription of opiates and there was therefore an imbalance of power in the relationship.

“Commencing the relationship abused the trust that patients place in their doctors and involved the doctor putting her needs before those of her patient.

“Dr Sanders had committed a serious driving offence, involving the potential for harm to herself or the public, but had failed to alert her regulator, although she was aware of a requirement to do so.

“The tribunal concluded that, considering the evidence as a whole, the misconduct, [the] conviction in this case were of such a serious nature, and involved such a blatant disregard for professional norms, that Dr Sanders’s misconduct was fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.”

The tribunal heard Sanders, from Bournemouth, has now found work and "is studying for a postgraduate diploma in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)".