Ipswich: Doctor receives a year-long ban over NHS prescriptions fraud

South East Suffolk's Magistrates' Court

South East Suffolk's Magistrates' Court - Credit: Archant

A doctor who helped himself to NHS prescriptions to use for his private patients and a member of his family has been banned for a year.

Dr Michael Debenham took the pads from the Hawthorn Drive Surgery, Ipswich, where he worked as a locum GP between December 2010 and May 2011.

The 62-year-old used the scripts for his own financial gain to obtain drugs for his private patients, the Medical Practitioners’ Tribunal Service heard.

Debenham also falsified the date of birth on a prescription for a family member so he could get the medication free of charge.

The family doctor pleaded guilty to committing fraud by false representation, at South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in October 2012.

Magistrates fined the doctor, from Hintlesham, £265, and ordered him to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

He was brought before his professional regulator where a Fitness to Practise panel, chaired by Jill Crawford, told him his actions would be considered “deplorable” by the public and other doctors.

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Ms Crawford told him: “The panel considered that your actions in deliberately changing details on a prescription form for a family member for personal financial gain was a breach of professional trust.

“It is related to medical practise and diverted public funds from the NHS.

“Your conviction tarnishes the profession and the panel considered that your actions would be considered to be deplorable by the public and fellow practitioners.”

The Manchester hearing was told that he had also continued to issue prescriptions even after he was temporarily suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC) in April 2012.

Chris Hamlet, for the GMC, had called for Debenham to be struck off to “mark the gravity” of his repeated dishonest behaviour.

But the three-person panel, chaired by Ms Crawford, determined it would be “disproportionate” and ruled he should be suspended for the maximum 12 months.

Ms Crawford said: “However, the panel has also taken account of the circumstances in which your dishonesty took place.

“Although they do not excuse your dishonest conduct, the panel noted that it occurred at a period of time when you were under considerable financial and domestic stress.”

The panel heard that Debenham took a number of prescription forms before leaving the Hawthorn Drive Surgery in May 2011.

He presented the forms to different pharmacies in an effort to have medications dispensed to patients between May and September 2011.

Some of the prescriptions were written for a family member, but her date of birth was altered to make her eligible for free drugs.

Debenham also handed prescriptions to pharmacies in April and May 2012, after he had been suspended by the GMC and ordered controlled drugs and vaccines to his registered address.

He told the panel that he had used the prescriptions fraudulently because he was in financial trouble at the time.

The MPTS panel found his actions were “dishonest” and “misleading” and had brought the profession into disrepute.

Debenham will have to attend a review hearing towards the end of the period of suspension before he is allowed back to unrestricted practise.