Belfast Telegraph

GP's year ban after his addict girlfriend stole prescriptions

By Victoria O'Hara

A doctor from Northern Ireland has been banned from working for 12 months after his partner stole more than 50 prescriptions from his medical bag to feed her addiction to painkillers.

Dr Michael Rodgers failed to keep his prescription pads secure, which led to his girlfriend forging his signature for more than 3,000 Tramadol tablets.

The couple were arrested in September 2010 after a Foyleside pharmacist became suspicious.

His boss at the Aberfoyle Medical Practice in Derry, where he was working in his final year as a trainee GP, was then alerted.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service heard that in July 2010 his boss, Dr A, contacted both the counter-fraud and probity unit and the PSNI, which launched the investigation.

The police probe revealed that more than 50 prescriptions made out to his partner and apparently signed by him over a four-month period had been fraudulently obtained by 'Miss A'.

On September 29, 2010 they were both arrested following a search of his home.

During an interview he told police that the prescription pads were locked in a doctor's bag, which had two combination locks, and he did not know his partner had discovered the number.

The doctor said he had not noticed the high volume of prescriptions used as he would only use "one to two hand-written prescriptions per week".

But his girlfriend admitted that she had discovered the combination after it had been left unsecured. She also admitted to forging his signature.

During a police interview he said he had not lost or had any drugs stolen over two years.

But it emerged he failed to report missing ampoules of the drugs diamorphine and pethidine, instead claiming they had broken when they were dropped down stairs.

The doctor untruthfully recorded the ampoules as broken on the controlled drugs register.

However, he later admitted that they had been stolen, speculating that it had happened at the surgery.

He said when he opened the bag all the controlled drugs, apart from a bottle of morphine, had gone and he had panicked.

The police probe revealed he failed to report the theft to anyone and made retrospective entries in the register accounting for the missing drugs. In January 2012 he pleaded guilty at Derry Magistrates Court to two charges in relation to failing to record medicines and fined £500.

He told the panel in June 2014 he was "furious and shocked" after discovering the actions of his girlfriend, and at that time had no knowledge of her addiction.

Describing himself as "cowardly", he said he had acted in his own self-interest to avoid an investigation. He expressed remorse for his actions but the panel said it was "overshadowed by the gravity of your misconduct".

It went on to say in not reporting the missing drugs he demonstrated a "blatant disregard for patient safety".

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service said: "It will send a message to you, the profession and the public about the gravity of your convictions and misconduct and the seriousness with which it is viewed by the panel."

Story so far

Dr Michael Rodgers was working at the Aberfoyle Medical Practice in Derry in his final year as a trainee GP in 2010. Between April 22 and July 28, 2010 his girlfriend, who had an addiction to painkillers, gained access to his medical bag and forged his signature on prescriptions for more than 3,000 Tramadol tablets. The couple were arrested in September 2010 after a Foyleside pharmacist became suspicious. During the police probe he admitted he failed to keep his prescription pads secure and report missing drugs. He was suspended from practising for a year by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

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