A suspected forged training certificate lands Dr U before a Medical Council hearing – find out how Medical Protection supported her throughout the case. By Francis O’Toole, Legal Adviser.
Dr U was a specialist in infectious diseases and general internal medicine. She submitted a mandatory training module certificate to her locum agency, which purported to show that she had completed an online course called mandatory training. It was alleged by a deputy postgraduate dean that Dr U had falsified the certificate by changing the date on a previous certificate. She had not completed the training or received a genuine certificate.
The dean referred Dr U to the Medical Council. Dr U contacted Medical Protection for assistance.
How Medical Protection assisted
Dr U accepted that she had forged the mandatory training certificate. By way of explanation she explained that her parents were in intense financial difficulties and she was very worried about the impact of this, as they were struggling to cope with repeated demands for money. She was worried most of all that they would lose their home.
As a result of these pressures and stressors, Dr U explained that she registered with locum agencies so that she could do additional work, thereby earning some extra money to try and alleviate the pressures on her parents. When registering for one agency she was asked to complete mandatory training and to produce evidence once she had done so. Rather than take the time to complete the training, which would have taken her no more than a couple of hours, she foolishly decided to forge a certificate to make it look like she had completed the training. She had done similar training a year previously and as the certificate was saved as a Word document, she simply amended the dates to give the false impression it covered her for the relevant year.
From the moment Dr U approached Medical Protection and explained what had happened, she was given helpful clear advice on what she needed to do to put things right. Dr U was advised to begin the process of reflection and to write a contemplative piece. Dr U was also advised on the importance of insight and remediation. We advised that in addition, Dr U should review the Medical Council guidance on Good Medical Practice. Dr U would also be advised to disclose any health-related issues to the Medical Council Health Committee. She would be advised to consider the impact of stress or burnout on her professional behaviour. If burnout was relevant, a Medical Protection training course could be recommended.
In addition, we obtained a number of testimonials from colleagues of Dr U, who all spoke extremely highly of her and explained among other things that her actions were completely out of character.
In preparation for the hearing, we therefore had a significant amount of remediation evidence and a number of impressive of testimonials, some of whom were prepared to take the trouble and attend the hearing in person and give evidence.
In this case, because of the persuasive remediation evidence, the tribunal were persuaded to make a finding of no impairment. This is most unusual in a case of dishonesty: honesty and integrity are the bedrock of the profession and a finding of dishonesty ordinarily results in a finding of impairment and the imposition of a sanction at the severe end of the spectrum.
In this case, however, the tribunal explained that they were satisfied that the doctor had demonstrated real insight into her misconduct and had taken proactive steps to remediate as evidenced by her participation in the ethics course. They were satisfied that a finding of impairment was not necessary in this case. Had Dr U been found to be impaired, it seemed inevitable that she would have had her registration suspended.
While a finding of no impairment was made, the tribunal did impose a warning on Dr U’s registration. In the circumstances there was no resistance to this on the part of Dr U and it no doubt will serve as a timely reminder for the rest of her career how important honesty and integrity is to the profession and to the wider public interest.