Hospital doctor caught claiming for overtime he never worked

A general view of Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil
-Credit: (Image: Media Wales Ltd)

A hospital doctor has been struck off after stealing "a significant amount of money" from his employer during a five-month fraud. Dr Edward Nikicicz was an experienced and competent practitioner who "genuinely cared" about his patients but he stole from Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board by claiming for overtime he did not do, a tribunal heard.

The 65-year-old qualified as a doctor in Poland in 1982 before moving to the UK in 2015 to practise at Conquest Hospital in East Sussex. He later spent time working at Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen and at the time of the fraud he was a locum at the health board which serves Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf, and Bridgend.

The tribunal heard Nikicicz was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court last June to a 12-month jail term suspended for two years. He had denied defrauding the health board by claiming twice the amount of overtime payments earned but a jury found him guilty. Judge Shomon Khan said Nikicicz had stolen "a significant amount of money" over the five months from July 2019. "Very simply you overclaimed," the judge told him. "You were claiming for overtime you did not do."

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Jennifer Ferrario, the barrister for the General Medical Council (GMC) regulator, said the doctor's "abuse of position" was a premediated and persistent pattern of behaviour. "His fraudulent behaviour only stopped because he was caught by the finance department at the hospital," she said, adding that he had shown "a reckless disregard for professional standards".

During the crown court sentencing Judge Khan had told Nikicicz: "Nobody questions your dedication, your competence. You genuinely cared about the people and their lives when you were working on the analysis of slides [for test results]. You were worried about delay, the impact that would have on them, the uncertainty for them in waiting for results. All of that was genuine, all of that was rather compelling. I have to take all of that good work into account and in my view it is very forceful mitigation along with the fact that you have got no previous convictions."

The tribunal panel found that Nikicicz failed to inform the GMC he had been charged with fraud. The regulator only learned of the case when the NHS counter-fraud team sent it an email 11 days after Nikicicz was convicted. Nathan Moxon, who chaired the panel, said the doctor "had a significant amount of time and multiple triggers within the criminal justice process that should have acted as a reminder to notify the GMC" but he did not do so at any stage.

Even after his conviction Nikicicz continued to claim his innocence although he repaid the money from the fraud in full including interest. Ms Ferrario said he had since been practising in Poland and that there was no suggestion he had repeated his actions. But she argued his conduct showed "dishonesty" and "a lack of integrity".

The panel took note of the doctor's previously unblemished record but found there was no evidence of reflection or remorse for the fraud. Mr Moxon said: "Despite an early suggestion from Dr Nikicicz that he had made a mistake in claiming the overtime he otherwise denied wrongdoing." Striking his name from the UK's medical register was the only way to "uphold proper professional standards" and "maintain public confidence" in the profession, the panel concluded.