Belfast Telegraph

Doctor lied to get pay rise but Derry hospital bosses maintain wall of silence

By Lisa Smyth

A doctor working at Altnagelvin Hospital lied about his qualifications to get a pay rise from cash-strapped health chiefs.

Shamed Dr Aref Al-Awa has been found guilty by the General Medical Council (GMC) of lying to the Western Health & Social Care Trust to get more money.

The trust has now been accused of a cover-up in relation to the case after refusing to disclose how much taxpayers’ money was paid to Dr Al-Awa as a result of his dishonesty.

However, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal there has never been a police investigation into the matter.

At the time he was working as a senior doctor specialising in ear, nose and throat, with an annual salary in the region of £60,000.

The GMC found Dr Al-Awa lied about his qualifications on a number of occasions, once when applying for a job and also in an attempt to get a pay rise.

The GMC fitness to practice panel also said Dr Al-Awa later lied to a colleague about his qualifications, which led to her making a submission on his behalf when he appealed an earlier decision not to increase his salary.

As a result, Dr Al-Awa was awarded a pay rise.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted the Western Trust for information relating to the case, but received the response: “The trust does not comment on issues regarding individual employees.”

The trust refused to reveal:

  • Dr Al-Awa’s annual salary prior to being awarded the pay rise.
  • The amount of money paid to Dr Al-Awa as a result of the backdated pay rise.
  • If the money was ever recouped.
  • If the police were informed of the case.
  • If the trust referred Dr Al-Awa to the GMC.
  • Whether the trust took disciplinary action against Dr Al-Awa.
  • Whether Dr Al-Awa remained an employee of the trust until the outcome of the GMC hearing.

Jim Wells, deputy chair of the Stormont health committee, said: "These matters are in the public domain as they have been dealt with by the GMC, so I see no reason why the trust is refusing to disclose details which are very much in the public interest.

“The trust is a public body and by refusing to provide full information about this matter it raises suspicions that everything was not done properly.”

Following the GMC hearing, Dr Al-Awa has been suspended from the GMC register.

This means he cannot work as a doctor in the UK for a 12-month period.

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