A trainee NHS doctor who pocketed almost £10,000 in sick pay whilst moonlighting at two different hospitals up to 174 miles away is able to keep her job after a disciplinary tribunal heard she had ‘personal difficulties’ at the time of the scam.
Dr Tracy Landu-Landu, 30, claimed the statutory pay from the NHS in Merseyside despite working 38 locum shifts of up to 13 hours each in Lincolnshire.
Investigators discovered that Landu-Landu received £9,865.52 in sick pay while she worked a total of 350 hours at the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston and the Covid-19 ward at the Lincoln County Hospital.
A tribunal hearing her case did not publish how much she earned on the moonlighting shifts, but they pay at least £30 an hour. It means she may have pocketed some £10,500 for the locum work.
The scam occurred between August and December 2020 while Landu-Landu was employed as a GP Specialty Trainee by St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
It emerged Landu-Landu’s partner had even warned her she faced the sack if her scam was discovered but it was claimed she carried on.
She also lied to officials who confronted her about working whilst off sick.
At the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester, she was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and was suspended for nine months.
Landu-Landu, who lives in Grantham in Lincolnshire, said she will pay back the money within 18 months and is expected to return to work next year following a review.
Dr Tracy Landu-Landu, 30,claimed sick pay over four months from the NHS in Merseyside
Landu-Landu was employed as a GP Specialty Trainee by St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust but moonlighted at two other hospitals 174 miles away
Her start date with the trust was delayed when she took a period off work due to an undisclosed illness and she received occupational sick pay totalling £9,865.52.
But, unknown to the health authority, Landu-Landu was working locum shifts between eight and 13 hours at a time for United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
She was referred to the GMC in April last year following an investigation into her sick pay claims which lasted up to 16 months.
At the hearing, Landu-Landu admitted taking the money but said she had been suffering from stress due to ‘recent life events’.
She insisted the conversation she had with her former partner about being dismissed if she worked whilst claiming sick pay took place after the investigation had started.
Landu-Landu claimed she did not think she was on official sick leave at the time but was asked by HR staff at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to get a fit note. She said she knew she had acted wrongly but refuted claims she did not correct her actions when she was made aware.
She later admitted lying to an HR official who recorded Landu-Landu had denied working whilst claiming sick pay. She said she had contacted the Trust and commenced repayment, but she had ‘some difficulties arranging to pay’.
In one month alone Landu-Landu got £3,971.83 in sick pay and and in another £2,498.41 whilst treating patients at the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston (pictured) and the Covid-19 ward at the Lincoln County Hospital
Landu-Landu was working locum shifts of between eight and 13 hours at a time for United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (pictured is the Lincoln County Hospital)
She told the tribunal that she had repaid close to £3,000 so far – but provided no evidence of repayment.
In her evidence Landu-Landu said: ‘The incident occurred a while ago and I have now had time to reflect on my actions. I know what I have done was wrong and I do not believe there is a risk that I would repeat my actions.
‘I have undergone investigation twice, which has given me time to personally reflect on what I could have done differently. I was in a very difficult place in my life at the time but I have more clarity now.
‘I would now ask beforehand if I was in a place where I was unsure about something.’
Counsel for the GMC Katie Jones told the hearing: ‘The misconduct in this case is serious given the dishonesty, which persisted over a period of months. Dr Landu-Landu had the opportunity to stop what she was doing, such as when her partner told her that she could get the sack if she worked whilst claiming sick pay – but despite this she continued to do so for a couple of months.
‘Dr Landu-Landu made a significant financial gain over that time. This was a significant act of dishonesty over a period of four months where Dr Landu-Landu did not change her behaviour when things were flagged up to her and she did not admit to what she had done when she had the chance at the end of December 2020. This was not a one-off incident.
Ms Jones added: ‘There was evidence of the difficult personal stressors that Dr Landu-Landu was experiencing at the time, albeit some of these only became apparent towards the end of the period in which the misconduct occurred and led to the dishonesty being uncovered.
‘Whilst Dr Landu-Landu did initially lie to the trust when asked if she had been working while off sick, she did shortly afterwards admit her wrongdoing and co-operated fully with the trust investigations.’
In suspending Landu-Landu, MPTS chairman Mrs Kim Parson said: ‘The Tribunal was of the opinion that Dr Landu-Landu’s distressing personal circumstances at the time may have influenced her conduct and contributed to her behaving in a way that she could not explain or justify.
‘The tribunal noted that it is recorded in the notes of the trust investigation that Dr Landu-Landu said that her actions were not initially done for financial gain, but it was “only when her sick pay stopped that money became an additional driver”.
‘The tribunal acknowledged that Dr Landu-Landu does have some insight, albeit that this is still developing. Further, that she said she had made efforts to remediate by repaying the sick pay she received. The tribunal noted, however, that it had been provided with little evidence of her insight and remediation. The tribunal also noted that Dr Landu-Landu has apologised for her actions.
‘This incident took place against a background of personal difficulties that Dr Landu-Landu was experiencing although the tribunal gave limited weight to that evidence in mitigation because not all of those personal stressors appeared to be present when Dr Landu-Landu first began working locum shifts whilst claiming sick pay.
‘Suspension is the appropriate and proportionate response. A period of suspension would have sufficient deterrent effect, sending a signal to Dr Landu-Landu, the profession, and the public that her conduct was unbefitting of a registered doctor.’