Degree Fraud: Fake psychiatrist case puts thousands of doctors under scrutiny
04 Dec 2018
The records of up to 3,000 doctors are being reviewed after it emerged that a woman worked as a NHS consultant psychiatrist for 22 years with fake qualifications before she was convicted of trying to defraud a patient.
The fraudster was jailed for five years after faking an 87-year-old patient’s will as part of an attempt to inherit her £1.3m estate after they met at a dementia clinic in Workington, Cumbria in 2016. Following the trial, an investigation by the Cumbrian newspaper News and Star revealed the fraudster had been working in the UK for more than two decades with forged qualifications from the University of Auckland.
The convicted fraudster had failed the first year of medical school in New Zealand in 1992, but subsequently managed to register as a doctor with the General Medical Council (GMC) with a forged degree certificate, forged primary medical qualification and a fake letter of recommendation from her most recent job in Pakistan, under a visa scheme that has since been discontinued. The investigation has prompted an urgent review of all doctors who registered with the GMC under the scheme, which allowed graduates of medical schools in some Commonwealth countries to work in the UK without having to pass an exam.
The consultant psychiatrist was found guilty of four fraud and theft charges at Carlisle Crown court and was jailed for five years. In response to the cases, Charlie Massey, the chief executive of the GMC, said:
“It is extremely concerning that a person used a fraudulent qualification to join the register and we are working to understand how this happened. We have brought this to the attention of police and other agencies, including NHS England, so that they may also take any necessary action to support patients and answer any questions they may have.
“Our processes are far stronger now, with rigorous testing in place to ensure those joining the register are fit to work in the UK. It is clear that in this case the steps taken in the 1990s were inadequate and we apologise for any risk arising to patients as a result. We are confident that, 23 years on, our systems are robust and would identify any fraudulent attempt to join the medical register.
“Patients deserve good care from appropriately qualified professionals and place a great deal of trust in doctors. To exploit that trust and the respected name of the profession is abhorrent.”
However, it emerged that the fraudster was ‘re-validated’ to remain on the GMC register in 2013, soon after the introduction of stricter rules designed to ensure all doctors stay up to date with their fields of medicine. However during this re-validation, the fraudster had passed all her Royal College exams, the GMC said the revalidation process in 2013 was not necessarily concerned with basic qualifications, adding: ‘Its focus is on reviewing what a doctor has done to retain and build on their knowledge and skills.’ Despite these interactions with regulatory bodies, nobody picked up on the fact that the fraudster did not have a medical degree.
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