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Wales Online are reporting: 'Sickie’ chiropodist defrauded NHS
AN NHS chiropodist treated 10 private patients a day while claiming she was too sick to work, a court has heard.
Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust continued to pay Muriel Ann Roberts during her sick leave believing her to be ill.
But her deception was uncovered when a colleague found her diary and saw the appointments she had listed on days when she was contracted to work but was off sick.
Yesterday at Cardiff Crown Court Roberts, 53, who had pleaded guilty in June to six charges in a prosecution brought by the Department of Work and Pensions was given a three-month suspended prison sentence by a judge.
Roberts gave the court more than 20 references from patients and others, described her as a “caring and sensitive” professional in her work.
Judge John Curran said it was that high regard coupled with her exemplary previous character that enabled him to suspend the jail term instead of locking her up immediately.
But he told her: “This was a serious and persistent breach of trust in which £4,089.96 of public money was paid out.
“If you had been found guilty following a trial there would have been an immediate four- month custodial sentence.”
The offences dated back to 2005 when Roberts was working a three-day week for the NHS and did private work, with the trust’s full knowledge, on her days off.
Between June and August that year, she submitted a number of medical certificates to her employers claiming she had a variety of illnesses such as flu or swollen glands.
But early in 2006, another member of staff found Roberts’ work diary, issued by the NHS, in a store cupboard. Prosecutor Carl Harrision said: “It was noticed that it contained names on days when she had been off sick and they were not the names of NHS patients. On one day when she had submitted a medical certificate, there were 10 appointments booked in the afternoon, between 1pm and 6pm.”
Julian Greenwood, defending Roberts, of Trem y Duffryn, Bridgend, said chiropody was a job she had trained for late in life and she was ashamed of what she had done.
Judge Curran ordered Roberts to pay back the £4,089 to the trust and contribute £1,000 towards the cost of the prosecution.
How can anyone thing that they can get away with this sort of behaviour indefinitely?
Believe you me Secret Squirrel, many still think they can and some have for years.
The handling of this case should be taken as stark warning for those who still flaunt the system - including those who continue to see private patients using NHS time, NHS equipment and NHS stock.
So not only has Ms Roberts to repay the NHS, contribute to court costs, accept the suspended sentence and criminal record, she now has to await the HPC to pass judgement on the situation. I fear that it will be long, long time before this experience will be laid to rest.
It is pretty shameful behaviour on the part of this professional, but for once the HPC will actually be applying their regulatory power in a case that seems pertinent- although how it protects the public could be called to question- is it not protecting the interests of the NHS more? The lady concerned has nothing but praise from her clients!
Cornmerchant is correct, however, she has been found guilty of a crime. Correctly, she was charged and found guilty in a criminal court and the HPC will doubtless now consider the case. At least in this case, the NHS has not used the HPC as a short cut!
Good for the HPC taking action. Hopefully, they can start taking action against more NHS pods who undertake the "odd patient" after work, using NHS autoclaves, clinical waste, NHS owned blades, couch roll, gloves, ALL of which we in private practise get for free! And I am sure that these "odd patient" pods declare their odd patient income to the tax man.
The HPC are on to another one who pulled a sickie to treat private patients
They only got a caution:
Conduct and Competence Committee Region: Northern Ireland Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Notice Of Allegation:
1. At all material times, you were employed by the Craigavon and Banbridge Community HSS Trust as a podiatrist.
2. In the course of that employment, you went on sick leave from 19th April 2006 until 26th May 2006.
3. Whilst on sick leave you carried out private podiatry work.
4. Carrying out private practise whilst on sick leave was contrary to policy 3 (iii) of the Trust’s Sickness and Absenteeism Policy and Procedure.
5. Also during the course of your employment with the Trust, you saw private patients during your lunch break. In doing so you:
a. did not comply with Trust policy regarding private practice; and
b. disobeyed direct instructions not to undertake private work during your lunch break.
When this case was opened to us, it was conceded by Mr Hannah on behalf of the registrant that the allegations were admitted by his client. Not withstanding these admissions the Panel required Ms Sophie Kemp, Counsel on behalf of the HPC to prove her case in the normal way. She requested the Panel to adopt a 3 stage approach to the allegations. Firstly to decide if the facts were proven, if so, whether those facts constituted misconduct and if so, whether the registrant’s fitness to practice is impaired by reason of misconduct.
For the avoidance of doubt the Panel wish to state that the burden of proof is on the HPC to prove its case to the requisite standard, namely, on the balance of probabilities.
Having carefully considered the oral evidence of Mrs Denise Christine Russell, (who we found a credible and reliable witness) and whose evidence was largely not challenged in cross examination, the HPC bundle of documents and the respective submissions of the parties this Panel is satisfied, to the requisite standard that the facts of the allegation set out at pages 3 and 4 of the HPC’s bundle of documents.
The oral and written evidence establish that between the 19 April 2006 and 26 May 2006, the registrant, whilst on sick leave from Craigavon and Banbridge Community HSS Trust, carried out private podiatry work and did so, contrary to policy 3(iii) of the Trust’s Sickness and Absenteeism Policy and Procedure. The oral and written evidence also establish that during the course of his employment with the afore mentioned Trust, the registrant saw private patients during his lunch break and in so doing, did not comply with the Trust policy regarding private practice. He also disobeyed direct instructions not to undertake private work during his lunch break.
The matter giving rise to the HPC allegation came to light on the 3 May 2006, after which two appointments were arranged, one for Mrs Rita Trainor for the 12 May 2006, which she attended with the registrant and one for Honor McCall for the 24 May 2006 which was subsequently cancelled. The matter then resulted in a Trust investigation and the registrant was interviewed on the 26 May 2006, accompanied by his representative. On that date the registrant freely admitted treating a number of private patients mainly in his Portadown practise and once, in his Tandragee practise between the 19 April 2006 and the 26 May 2006 (during which that period, he was on sick leave from the Trust). We note that the registrant, on the 26 May 2006, accepted that he had breached the above mentioned policy and indeed, enquired whether it would be possible to pay back the sick pay he had received. Another meeting took place with the registrant on the 6 July 2006 when he acknowledged that he’d read all the relevant documentation relating to carrying out work on a private capacity.
We find from the evidence, oral and written, and the registrant’s own admissions made during the course of the interview that he carried out private work whilst on sick leave from the Trust and that he treated private patients during his lunch break, contrary to Trust policy. We find that at all material times, the registrant was familiar with the relevant Trust policies.
Having found the facts proven the Panel consider the next step, namely, whether those facts mount to misconduct. We find that they do mount to misconduct. In so acting, he was in breach, not only of the relevant Trust policies, but also standards 3, 13 & 14 of the Health Professions Council’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. These provide as follows; You must keep high standards of personal conduct, you must carry out your duties in a professional and ethical way and you must behave with integrity and honesty.
Finally, the Panel considered whether the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct set out as above. We find that it is. The breaches of the HPC standards impact on the registrant’s current integrity.
In approaching the question of which sanction, if any, is appropriate in this case the Panel had regard to the HPC Indicative Sanctions document, the principle of proportionality and the respective submissions of the parties. The Panel reminds itself that the purpose of sanctions is to secure public protection rather than to punish.
The Panel has considered the comprehensive points made in mitigation made by Mr Hannah on behalf of the registrant and has had regard to the new guidelines for Podiatry Service issued on May 2008. Having carefully considered the detailed points in mitigation and all the evidence, this Panel is satisfied that there is no real risk of reoccurrence that the registrant has shown insight and the lapse itself was of a minor nature, and that it was over a short period of time. The Panel has also had regard to the lengthy and distinguished work history of this registrant who qualified in 1984.
The Panel has considered each of the sanctions available to it and has decided, given the seriousness of the case; to take no further action would not be appropriate. The Panel has decided to make a Caution Order. It is satisfied that this will adequately protect the public and is a proportionate sanction in the circumstances. The Panel next considered the duration of the set caution. The Panel has decided that the Caution Order shall remain in place for a period of two years.
That the Registrar be directed to annotate the register entry of xxxxxxxxx with a Caution which is to remain on the register for a period of two years.