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Practice manager imprisoned for 'grotesque' £270k swindle

A former GP practice manager has been handed a three-year jail term for swindling GPs out of £267,000, with GP partners forced to take out mortgages and loans to keep the practice afloat unaware that the fraudster was stealing up to a third of the surgery's total payroll at points.

Last week, judges at Wood Green Crown Court sentenced Brenda Duncan, 49, to three years' imprisonment after being convicted of six offences of fraud against GPs that she worked for over a ten year period working as practice manager at Oak Lodge Medical Centre in Edgware, North London.

An investigation by NHS Protect and the Metropolitan Police, revealed that Ms Duncan paid herself an extra £108,615 in salary and £159,244 in overtime that she was not entitled to.

The probe was launched after two GPs at the practice identified the fraud in February 2010 after having long been puzzled by falls in the practice's income, with the scale of the loss forcing GP partners to take out loans and mortgages to keep the practice afloat. At her peak, Ms Duncan was earning £17,000 gross per month – the equivalent to a third of the surgery's total payroll.

Mick Hayes, anti-fraud lead at NHS Protect, said: ‘Brenda Duncan abused the trust placed in her by busy, hardworking GPs to massively inflate her income at their expense. At trial, her attitude appeared to be that she was worth it, but the reality is she drained the surgery of money and her greed threatened the quality of patient care.'

NHS Protect found that Ms Duncan awarded herself a salary increase, giving herself a basic annual salary of £100,000 by October 2009, almost three times the £38,000 paypacket she took home in 2004. The fraud investigators also found that Duncan claimed 220 hours per month in unwarranted overtime, including claiming for overtime whilst on a two week holiday. Ms Duncan tried to cover her tracks by providing false salary spreadsheets to GP partners at the practice.

Ms Duncan resigned and left the practice in November 2009. The extent of her fraud was identified in 2010, at which point Ms Duncan handed herself in to a Colindale police station for arrest.

Today, the Judge told Duncan: ‘You abused your position of trust in a grotesque way. At trial your greed was described as excessive and obscene, and that I agree with.'

Duncan said that she was ‘sorry the partners feel the way they do.'

Oak Lodge Medical Centre is understood to be taking civil action against Ms Duncan.

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