Worthing nurse struck off for fraud

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A WORTHING nurse caught tampering with medical records to claim more sick pay has been banned from nursing.

Elaine Gray, 52, was caught altering her medical records over a period of five and a half years – defrauding Worthing and Southlands NHS Trust out of more than £2,000.

At the Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing on February 11, the nurse, who worked at Worthing Hospital, in the Buckingham ward for the elderly, blamed the pressure and stress in her home life, stating it was a difficult time due to her mum’s poor health.

She said: “Caring for mum, it was a vicious circle about coming into work.

“I was sick at the time. I’m sorry. If I was given a chance, I will pay everything back.”

Medical certificates

Lynda Naftel, matron and nurse team manager of Buckingham ward, became suspicious in 2008 after Gray handed over medical certificates which appeared altered.

An investigation by the NHS counter fraud team found the certificates had been changed to give the nurse two weeks off, rather than the one week the doctor agreed.

Further investigations found six other medical certificates, dating back to 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007, had been changed to extend the time she was signed off.

Gray blamed her mum’s long-standing medical conditions for her actions and said she could not cope with work.

However, her deception started soon after she was employed by Worthing and Southlands NHS Trust – five years before her mum died in 2007.

Tampering

The hearing also heard Gray continued tampering with the documents for five and a half years, only ending when she was caught in January, 2008.

The panel argued the nurse could have returned to her doctor if she was unfit to work, obtained unpaid leave, used her annual leave, or discussed her circumstances with occupational health.

The panel struck Gray off the nursing register, describing her actions as a “serious case of repeated dishonesty” which brought the profession into “disrepute”.

A spokesman from Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The trust always takes any allegations of fraud very seriously and the nurse in question was immediately dismissed.

“Her removal from the nursing register sends a clear signal that fraudulent behaviour will not be tolerated in the NHS.”