A DOCTOR has been suspended for two months, after working a shift at Newport’s Royal Gwent hospital while signed off sick in another area.

Earlier this month, the suspension was handed down to Dr Marius Popescu, by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

The tribunal found that from December 2016, Dr Popescu was working full-time as speciality doctor in emergency medicine at Weston General Hospital, Weston-super-Mare.

However, in November 2018, while on paid sick leave from this position, Dr Popescu was found to have worked a paid locum shift at the Royal Gwent, on November 24, 2018.

It was further alleged that on a date between November 29, 2018, and December 3, 2018, Dr Popescu presented a ‘fit note’ to his employers, which said that he was not fit to work between November 20-29 of that year.

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Ahead of the tribunal, the doctor had admitted to working the shift at the Royal Gwent, but having attended a meeting with colleagues on November 22, “he had presumed by attending a meeting with these colleagues there was no requirement for him to notify them that he was now fit to work”.

However, this was not accepted by the tribunal.

Giving evidence, Dr Popescu said that he was not due to work from November 23 and 25 at Weston General, and had intended therefore to self-certify as having had two periods of sickness of less than seven days. However, he was told that this absence would total nine days – and therefore required a sick note from the GP before he could return to work.

According to his witness statement, Dr Popescu said: “After leaving the GP surgery but before getting back into my car, I recall briefly looking at the sickness certificate and thinking that – whilst it covered the broad dates which I had been off work – it did not totally accurately reflect the fact that I had two short episodes of illness, but I thought this was, essentially, immaterial.

“At the time, I did not think this made any material difference to myself or the Trust, and I certainly did not think that this would lead to any difference in the pay I received.

"If the sick note had been for too short a duration, and had not fully covered the days when I had been absent from work, or it had been for too long a duration, and would have delayed my return to work, then it would have mattered and I suspect I would have gone back to get it changed.

“But, in view of the fact that I thought one period covering the relevant days, rather than two periods covering the relevant days, would make no difference, and I did not want the fuss of having to go back through the whole process of trying to get it changed (by that stage it had taken me nearly three days just to get the sick note) I went to the hospital to hand in the certificate to one of the Emergency Department secretaries."

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What was the outcome?

The tribunal concluded that Dr Popescu’s actions were in violation of good medical practice “as they had involved dishonesty which is always a serious matter.”

However, it was noted that there was a number of mitigating factors – not least that a great deal of time had passed since the incident had taken place.

What’s more, it was determined that Dr Popescu had shown genuine remorse for his actions, had engaged with the process, had no further misconduct issues, and is currently working with dementia patients in a care home.

Considering the evidence, the tribunal issued Dr Popescu with a two month suspension from practicing.