A respected former paramedic forged hundreds of prescriptions while working at a GP practice.
Richard Hook, 61, was employed by Clydach Primary Care Centre in Swansea as an advanced practitioner and was able to assess patients, recommend suitable medications, and draft prescriptions which then had to be signed or stamped by a GP, a court heard.
But a judge was told Mr Hook – who worked at the surgery from June 2016 – forged around 400 prescriptions by using a signature that resembled that of Dr Iestyn Davies and by using Dr Davies’ prescription stamp.
Mr Hook’s defence team said he forged the signatures to ensure the practice could run smoothly and to free up GP time.
Susan Fowler, prosecuting, said concerns were first raised in August 2017 when a member of staff noticed a patient’s prescription appeared to have been signed by Dr Davies, who wasn’t working that day. Mr Hook admitting signing the prescription and was immediately suspended from his role.
Ms Fowler said: ‘He was asked whether he had been signing prescriptions and he admitted it, saying he had only done it for one week.
‘[In total] 14,250 prescriptions had to be reviewed by staff at the surgery and a review found he had signed in excess of 300 in July alone.
‘An examination of CCTV showed the defendant accessing Dr Davies’ room when he was not present before returning to reception and giving the patient a prescription.’
Mr Hook later admitted he had been signing prescriptions for a number of months and admitted he had fraudulently claimed to have a master’s degree in advanced clinical practice from the University of South Wales. He had been enrolled on the course from 2012 to 2015, but failed his dissertation, the court heard.
Mr Hook, of Golwg y Mynydd, Swansea, appeared in Cardiff Crown Court on Friday (1 February) for sentencing after pleading guilty to three counts of fraud and one count of forgery.
Frank Phillips, defending, told the court Mr Hook was respected throughout his career and in the NHS and that during his time in the ambulance service he was awarded the Queen’s Ambulance Service Medal in 2014.
He said Mr Hook signed the prescriptions to ‘facilitate the smooth running of the practice’ and free up time for GPs to see other patients. He said the similarity between Mr Hook’s signature and that of Dr Davies was ‘unintentional’.
He added Mr Hook had signed prescriptions during his lengthy career in the ambulance service but acknowledged he didn’t have the capacity to do so in his role as advanced practitioner.
Mr Phillips said: ‘He is embarrassed and remorseful. It was a difficult employment and some of that stress may have influenced his decision-making.
‘The only reason he resigned and left the ambulance service was because he thought the NHS wasn’t utilising his skills. He has since taken up a management role.’
Mr Phillps said while the reputation of the surgery may suffer as a result of Hook’s actions no patients were harmed.
Sentencing, Judge Eleri Rees said: ‘There was potential for serious harm if [items] were wrongly prescribed.
‘Staff had to look at 14,000 prescriptions, had to review 300, and three patients were called in. Some of the prescriptions were issued to young children.’
Ms Rees handed Mr Hook a 26-week prison sentence for the count of forgery, suspended for 12 months, and a 12-week sentence to run concurrently for three counts of fraud.
He was also ordered to pay £3,597 in court costs and a £140 victim surcharge.
Credit: Media Wales