A DISHONEST doctor who fleeced the NHS of £12,000 has been spared jail after a court heard he will be struck off the GMC register and never work again.
Consultant radiologist John Coffey, 53, claimed he had put in extra hours to carry out work to cut patient waiting lists.
MORE TOP STORIES:
But Coffey, from Chipping, was carrying out the extra duties during his normal working hours at Royal Preston Hospital - and sending the NHS a bill for overtime.
When he was questioned he claimed the practice was common working culture among consultants - a claim later dismissed by the court.
The Honorary Recorder of Preston, Judge Mark Brown, sentencing, said: “He was all the time earning a six-figure sum and his wife will have been earning a six figure sum. He’s greedy.”
Preston Crown Court heard Coffey, who specialised as a consultant in nuclear medicine, agreed to do additional work reviewing x-rays and scans and writing up reports on them.
The work was not part of his job description and he would be paid £4 per film, in batches of 100.
In April 2014, Coffey was handed a written warning he should not be doing the work during his normal working hours.
But Coffey ignored the warning and went on to claim a further £12,000 fraudulently.
Judge Mark Brown, sentencing, said: “There is no doubt from that time onwards you knew it was wrong and dishonest to be claiming additional money.”
He pleaded guilty to fraud after his trial had started.
Judge Brown said: “Although in the context of the overall trust this is a relatively small amount, nonetheless the case is serious because of your leading position as a consultant.
“The offence is aggravated due to the significant breach of trust and the fact you knew perhaps better than most that the NHS can ill afford to lose this money.
“Putting it bluntly, the NHS is strapped for cash, and everybody in it is having to work under immense pressure.
“Also when you were facing trial you claimed it was the culture among other consultants to do extra work during the day and claim the extra payments. "However when that was investigated the evidence demonstrates the claim was untrue.
“I am satisfied you were prepared to blacken the character of other doctors to try to save your own skin.”
Michael Hayton QC, defending, said his client had been foolish and criminal and suffers physical and mental health problems.
He has been suspended from working as a doctor and now faces a hearing with the GMC to determine his future - the outcome of which, Mr Hayton said was “inevitable”.
Judge Brown said: “There is little doubt that your career as a doctor is likely to be finished. In itself, I accept that represents a significant punishment.
“You had an unblemished record of medical service over many years and no complaints against you had ever been made by patients.
“It is also clear that you quickly repaid the money you obtained fraudulently.”
The judge said the offence involved a significant breach of trust and warranted a prison sentence but he could suspend the sentence bearing in mind Dr Coffey’s medical career is now over.
He handed Coffey, of Goose Lane, a 15 month sentence suspended for two years and ordered him to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community.
Coffey must also pay £14,600 costs on top of the £12,000 he has already repaid to Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.