A fraudster who lied on his CV in order to land a job within the NHS, then cheated his employers out of almost £350,000 has been jailed for five years.
No, you haven’t accidentally wandered into last week’s post, this is another incidence of degree fraud in the NHS.
This time our criminal is Phillip Hufton, who does have a degree in nursing, but claimed to be a qualified doctor with a PhD. He wasn’t in a clinical role, but nevertheless he lied and cheated his way to stealing £350,000 from our NHS.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) said Hufton’s actions were “reprehensible”.
I agree. I do.
But this does not excuse the fact that CPFT failed to check his credentials when they recruited him. Part of the blame has to lie with them as they had a clear opportunity to prevent this. Earlier this year Judge Andrew Goymer condemned a public sector employer for failing to check someone’s credentials saying that it was ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ and that the recruitment process was ‘thoroughly lax’.
We have reported before on the improvements being made to screening checks by the NHS and other medical regulators like the General Medical Council (GMC). Many of these improvements cover recruitment of new staff and regular re-registration of existing professionals like midwives.
The big news story today surrounds medical professionals recruited in the 1990’s before these robust processes were introduced.
Zholia Alemi came to the UK with a medical degree from the University of Auckland. Under regulations covering the Commonwealth at that time, she did not have to take an exam here in the UK to join the GMC register in 1995.
Alemi is not a doctor. She dropped out of university after a year. Her false medical qualification was only discovered when she was convicted of fraud and theft in October after taking advantage of a vulnerable patient.
She was working as a consultant psychiatrist for a dementia service in west Cumbria at the time, faked a dementia patient’s will, stole bank cards and obtained signatures from other patients. She has now been jailed for five years.
The GMC has just ordered remedial checks on over 3,000 medical doctors working in the UK under the same entry conditions as Alemi. It says that it doesn’t expect to find anything untoward, but only proper verification checks will reveal the truth.
Our free toolkit – Advice and Guidance on Degree Fraud for Employers advises recruiters to make checks on the qualifications of all applicants with the awarding bodies. This is the only way to ensure the people we recruit are telling the truth about their credentials.
Let’s hope this wicked and abhorrent abuse of trust is an isolated case.