Disgraced hospital consultant who ripped off NHS gets unpaid work

A senior doctor who defrauded the NHS of nearly £12,000 to top up his £100,000 a year salary, has been given a suspended jail term.

Tuesday, 28th March 2017, 2:27 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th April 2017, 10:28 pm

John Coffey, of Goose Lane, Chipping, near Preston, worked as a consultant radiologist at the Royal Preston Hospital, responsible for reviewing and reporting on a variety of medical scans.

But a probe into his overtime claims exposed the greedy medic was claiming an unearned, unapproved bonus at taxpayers’ expense by carrying out thousands of plain film X-ray studies in his normal working day - then claiming he had done it out of hours.

Coffey, 53, admitted fraud by false representation after claiming £4 per X-ray.

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The Honorary Recorder of Preston, Judge Mark Brown, imposed a 15 month jail term suspended for two years, with 200 hours of unpaid work.

He must also pay £14,600 costs.

Preston Crown Court heard Coffey was not contracted to study plain film scans from standard x-rays as part of his job plan, and had initially refused the extra work - but then agreed to do so at a rate of £4 per film, outside his working hours to help his department to clear a waiting list backlog.

The scam involved him lining up almost-completed reports after working on them earlier in the day and waiting until 5pm to re-enter the clinical IT system and hit the “submit” button.

When interviewed under caution, the consultant strenuously denied having been dishonest - but was unable to offer a good reason for entering each x-ray patient’s record once before, and once after, 5pm.

Bob Elias, prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, said: “Put​ ​simply​ ​what​ ​this​ ​case​ ​is​ ​about​ ​is​ ​a​ ​doctor​ ​doing​ ​optional​ ​extra​ ​​ ​NHS​ ​work​ ​which​ ​he​ ​is​ ​meant to​ ​do​ ​outside​ ​his​ ​contracted​ ​hours​ ​but​ ​instead​ ​doing​ ​the​ ​work​ ​within​ ​his​ ​contracted​ ​day​ ​and​ ​then rather​ ​cynically​ ​signing​ ​off​ ​the​ ​work​ ​on​ ​the​ ​computer​ ​system​ ​outside​ ​his​ ​working​ ​day.​ ​

“In​ ​effect he’s doing​ ​overtime​ ​within​ ​the​ ​working​ ​day​ ​so​ ​he​ ​is​ ​paid​ ​twice​ ​by​ ​the​ ​NHS.​ ​Paid​ ​twice​ ​in​ ​reality​ ​by​ ​the taxpayer.”

In one day in March 2014, between 11.20am and 5pm, Coffey reviewed and reported on 100 plain film x-rays during a session when he was supposed to be doing his normal job plan work, resulting in a £400 loss to the NHS.

The NHS fraud team’s analysis work identified a number of dates whereby the defendant appeared to have been completing the ‘Out of Hours’ plain film reporting during his normal working day.

Mr Elias added: “Such a cynical position is we would say, clearly dishonest."

Coffey resigned in December 2014 and has repaid the overpayment in full.