A Royal Preston Hospital doctor who defrauded the NHS of nearly £24,000 has pleaded guilty to a ‘rolled up’ charge of fraud by false representations at Preston Crown Court last week.
Consultant radiologist John Coffey, 53, of Goose Lane, Chipping, Preston, was suspended and then resigned from his well-paid senior role at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust after being caught out.
As a consultant radiologist, he was responsible for reviewing and reporting on a variety of medical scans.
He was not contracted to study plain film scans from standard x-rays as part of his job plan.
But he agreed to do so at a rate of £4 per film, outside his working hours (after 5pm) to help his department to clear a ‘waiting list’ backlog.
Previously, he had said he was far too busy and without any capacity for any additional duties.
However, once extra money was made available for the extra work, Coffey completed most of it within his normal working hours, effectively claiming himself an unearned, unapproved bonus at the hospital’s – and ultimately the taxpayer’s – expense.
In an audacious yet simple scam, he lined up the almost-completed reports after working on them earlier in the day and wait until 5pm to re-enter the clinical IT system and hit the “submit” button.
When later challenged, he tried to argue he had technically completed the work after office hours.
In one day in March 2014, between 11:20am and 5pm, the consultant reviewed and reported on 100 plain film x-rays during a session when he was supposed to be doing his normal job plan work, at a £400 loss to the NHS.
The fraud investigation showed this was not a one-off. Coffey was routinely and consistently undertaking ‘after hours’ waiting list work during NHS contracted hours.
In just over a year, between Autumn 2013 and Autumn 2014, Coffey’s series of frauds bumped up his earnings by £23,916.
This breaks down to £4 each for 5,979 plain film reports he claimed for as ‘waiting list’ work that he actually undertook during his normal working day.
Coffey claimed he was being ‘efficient’ in completing the work during the day.
Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, said: ‘John Coffey abused his position of trust as a consultant radiologist to defraud the NHS of nearly £24,000.
‘That much could have paid a nurse for a year. He has admitted the crime, and it would not be appropriate for NHS Protect to comment further before sentencing.’
Coffey was investigated by local counter fraud specialists Claire Smallman and Simon Regan, with support from the national level counter-fraud body, NHS Protect.
He is due to be sentenced on 3 March at the same court.