A doctor who hit out at politicians for failing to adequately fund the health service has been suspended for four months after dishonestly claiming pay from the NHS.
Dr Fiachra McLaughlin was allowed to remain on the medical register after a fitness to practice hearing was told of his remorse for "fraudulently" submitting pay claims for work he had not done at Craigavon Area Hospital.
The Medical Practitioner's Tribunal Service (MPTS) panel was told the trainee GP "was under financial pressure having taken on a loan to assist with the purchase of a car, had completed the purchase of a property and was saving for his forthcoming wedding".
At the time he submitted the claim to the Southern Health and Social Care Trust in September 2018, he was working weekend shifts as a locum doctor at Craigavon Area Hospital. Dr McLaughlin referred himself to the General Medical Council on January 28, 2019, after the trust wrote to him on four days earlier to tell him they were planning on making a referral to the regulatory body over the allegations of impropriety.
During the fitness to practise hearing, Dr McLaughlin admitted a series of allegations, including knowing he had not worked at the hospital on the dates he claimed payment for and that he had told the trust he had "floated about the hospital and covered" a number of wards.
He also admitted that he made the statements knowing they were not true and that his claims were "false and fraudulent".
The findings said: "He has also reflected on his impulsive, defensive and self-protectionist traits. He has committed to being open, honest, accountable and responsible. He now fully analyses uncomfortable situations to learn from them."
The hearing was told that Dr Fiachra sent a letter of apology in June 2019, but did not specifically apologise for having made a fraudulent claim. It was also told that Dr McLaughlin had maintained his dishonesty when he self-referred to the GMC and only admitted the dishonesty at the time of hearing.
However, the hearing was told Dr McLaughlin has since taken a number of steps to address his behaviour.
The panel found Dr McLaughlin guilty of serious misconduct and said his fitness to practise was impaired as a result.
It deemed that erasure from the medical register would deprive the public of "an otherwise good doctor who, early in his career, had made a foolish choice". The panel added that it did not believe his behaviour to be "fundamentally incompatible" with working as a doctor and that striking him off would be "extraordinarily harsh".
Instead, it ruled that a four-month suspension was "appropriate and proportionate".
In June, it emerged that Dr McLaughlin had launched an extraordinary attack on Stormont on social media, branding a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic as "criminal".
He also said the fact healthcare workers were relying upon public donations of PPE was "shocking and unbelievable".
He said: "We have to support our nursing staff and medical staff with adequate personal protection and not rely on charity donations like the 'Tory government' have made us do.
"My brave and beautiful wife goes to work every day with next to no personal protective equipment fromStormont which again is criminal and got very little help from the 'Tory government' and I think that is shocking and unbelievable."