A recruitment consultant who beefed up the CVs and references of applicants without their knowledge, securing them NHS medical locum positions, had been given a suspended sentence.
Seven locum doctors (the majority being for specialist Senior House Officer posts) were employed by United Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust and Western Sussex Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on the basis of Ross Etherson’s misleading documents.
None were aware he had altered their CVs and references.
The resulting loss to the NHS was identified as £37,186. Etherson, 34, of Chestnut Grove, Balham, London, carried out the potentially dangerous fraud while working for Midas Medical Recruitment (MMR) in Chiswick, London.
Etherson was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months. Earlier, he pleaded guilty to twenty-one counts of Making or Supplying Articles for Use in Frauds contrary to Section 7(1) of the Fraud Act 2006.
Etherson worked for Midas between April 2009 and May 2010. His main role was supposed to be placing adequately qualified and experienced doctors in NHS positions.
He dealt with a number of NHS trusts, including United Lincolnshire Hospitals (one of the largest in the country), Isle of Wight, Western Sussex Hospitals and Sherwood Forest Hospitals.
In February 2010, Lincoln County Hospital and Grantham District Hospital (both part of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) reported concerns to NHS Protect about the CVs and references of some new locum doctors they had appointed, suspecting that the documents had been altered.
Assisted by the Metropolitan Police, NHS Protect’s fraud investigators searched MMR’s Chiswick premises in April 2010, imaged computers and seized papers.
When interviewed after his arrest, Etherson admitted altering and falsifying applicants’ references as well as the ‘UK work experience’ sections of a number of their CVs, and supplying the false documents to trusts.
Forensic examination of the imaged computer equipment revealed further fraudulent documents.
The faked reference letters within the CVs made use of at least eight false identities of medical consultants, either loosely based on real people or entirely made up.
David Hall, Anti-Fraud Lead, NHS Protect, said: “Ross Etherson’s potentially dangerous deception has caught up with him. He abused a position of trust for his personal gain, seeming not to care about the potential consequences for patients of receiving treatment from medical staff whose experience did not meet the requirements of their job.”
However, no evidence was found that patients had suffered clinically as a result of the fraud. The hospitals concerned are believed to have quickly spotted their new recruits’ shortcomings and, where necessary, released them from their contracts.