Dentist jailed for falsifying records

A DENTIST was behind bars last night after pleading guilty to falsifying NHS records at his Essex practice and dishonestly pocketing �10,000 of NHS cash.

Roddy Ashworth

A DENTIST was behind bars last night after pleading guilty to falsifying NHS records at his Essex practice and dishonestly pocketing �10,000 of NHS cash.

Geoffrey O'Sullivan, 51, who worked in Princel (crt) Lane, Dedham, was sentenced to four months in prison for signing off forms knowing he was claiming money for work he had not done.

They were prepared by his receptionist, Marlene Townes, and resulted in �23,651.32 of taxpayer's money being wrongly paid to O'Sullivan's practice.

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The court heard that Ms Townes had been making the false claims under her own initiative and that O'Sullivan, who lives in Higham Marsh, Stoke by Nayland, discovered what was happening in February 2003.

He ordered Ms Townes to stop but, the court heard, instead of dismissing her he allowed her to continue working for him.

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However, in 2004 he became aware that the false claims were still being made. But on this occasion, instead of stopping the scam, he continued to sign off the forms.

It was only when a part-time dental nurse, who worked out what was happening, alerted her father - himself a retired dentist - that the wrongdoing was reported to the NHS, which launched an investigation.

Yesterday, at Chelmsford Crown Court defence barrister James Leonard said that the impact the case had had on both O'Sullivan and his family was enormous.

His wife had paid back the whole of the �23,651 - even though O'Sullivan had only been aware of �10,000 - and the couple barely communicated anymore, he said. O'Sullivan was so ashamed it had made him ill, he added.

“It is without any doubt at all that this man should have resisted allowing this to go on. It is totally unacceptable,” he said.

“He feels he has not only let his family down, and his patients down, but he has also let his entire profession down.”

Prosecution barrister James Thacker explained that O'Sullivan had pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to defraud, and that the Crown Prosecution Service was content not to proceed with that charge.

He also added that Ms Townes had pleaded not guilty to the same charge and, that as she had not benefited financially from the scam and Mr O'Sullivan had accepted responsibility, no action was being taken against her.

Before sentencing O'Sullivan for false accounting, Judge Roger Hayward Smith QC said: “You deliberately signed documents which falsified the amount of work you had done.

“This is a serious breach of trust continuing over many months by a professional dentist.

“This matter is so serious that the only sentence I can give is one of imprisonment.”

The judge turned a claim for more than �20,000 in prosecution costs, however, saying he did not want to “pile on the agony”. He added: “Your family have suffered enough.”

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