Radiologist suspended for fake records and false financial claims

2020 09 14 22 38 7832 Gavel 400

A senior radiologist who dishonestly claimed payment for scans that he pretended to have reported outside his normal working hours has been suspended from the U.K. medical register for three months, the BMJ reported on 25 March.

On several occasions between November 2018 and February 2019, Dr. Arun Batra reported scans during his contracted National Health Service (NHS) working hours or while on study leave or agreed supporting professional activity time. But he amended computer records to make it appear the reports had been done outside those times, the BMJ noted.

Batra later claimed payment from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust for some of the reports, although the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearing that suspended him described the financial loss to his employer as low. The reports were supposed to be done as extra work as part of the waiting list initiative and general additional backlog work, the report continued.

False claims

His actions came to light when a fellow consultant saw him completing waiting list initiative reports during normal working hours and reported him to the trust's clinical director. He admitted all the charges and accepted that his fitness to practice was impaired, the BMJ stated.

The tribunal found his actions "extremely serious" but concluded that he had full insight into his misconduct and had taken "extraordinary steps to remediate," to the extent that "there was nothing further that could reasonably be asked of him." Overall, the tribunal ruled that "he had undergone a genuine and complete journey with his insight."

According to the BMJ, the virtual hearing was told Batra has a dual contract and works for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as well as the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust. His counsel noted that he has sole responsibility for head and neck imaging and there is a national shortage of radiologists in his subspecialty.

The General Medical Council's counsel, who asked the tribunal to suspend Batra, accepted that it was "not in the public interest to erase Batra given his expertise and highly specialised area of practice." Furthermore, Richard Hartley, clinical director for radiology at South Tees NHS Trust, told the tribunal he "struggled" to see how the cancer service could be provided for North and South Tees without Batra, the BMJ added.

Summing up

The tribunal noted that this was the first occasion in a 30-year career that Batra's integrity had been called into question and determined that the risk of repetition was very low. It decided that there was "no evidence of a dishonest character trait as evidenced by testimonials," and took into account "the evidence that his absence from the workplace was also likely to impact on patients and delivery of services," according to the BMJ.

Emma Boothroyd, chairing the tribunal, said it had determined that "a period of suspension for three months would be proportionate and would be sufficient to satisfy the public interest in upholding proper standards and conduct and maintain public confidence in the profession."

No review hearing was ordered because "the tribunal, having already found Dr. Batra to have full insight and having completely remediated for his actions, determined that there was nothing further for him to demonstrate before a tribunal," the BMJ concluded.

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