Beds, Herts & Bucks

GP suspended for charging couple for home visits

A GP has been suspended from practising for four months because he charged an elderly Hertfordshire couple for home visits.

Dr John Stephens worked at the Village Surgery at Amenbury Lane in Harpenden, the General Medical Council (GMC) heard.

He charged an elderly couple up to £300 for each visit and also asked for cheques to be made out to his daughter.

A GMC panel will decide whether he can return to work after the suspension.

The case came to light when the couple contacted the Jonathan Vernon-Smith Consumer Clinic on BBC Three Counties Radio on 20 October 2008.

It was referred to the GMC, which found Dr Stephens acted dishonestly and abused his professional position in its decision on Friday.

The panel found that on six occasions between June and November 2008 he charged the couple amounts ranging from £150 to £300, taking from them a total of £1,300.

It is not known whether the doctor's daughter was aware of what was going on.

Payment 'snowballed'

The elderly couple cannot be named. But the wife said: "We did not understand that we did not have to pay for calling the doctor out to our home to see my husband.

"The amount we paid snowballed.

"At the end of the visit it was always me who asked 'How much do we owe you doctor?'. It went on for a long time."

In a statement NHS Hertfordshire said: "The primary care trust has given evidence to the General Medical Council about this case and a full investigation has taken place.

"GPs working under contract with the NHS should not be charging individual patients for consultations or visits."

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