AGENCIES WORKING in partnership are set to recover money after a doctor defrauded over £1 million from the Portsmouth group of GP practices he co-founded in order to fund his online gambling habit.
Dr Rumi Chhapia has already had to pay back £238,000 to the Portsmouth Primary Care Alliance (PPCA). Now, several online gambling companies will return money to the stretched primary care service, upon which patients and taxpayers rely, and particularly so during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Chhapia was temporarily in charge of the PPCA’s finances when he made 65 transfers to his own bank account. From 20 August through until 30 September last year, Chhapia embezzled the sum of £1,133,704.50.
Earlier, Chhapia pleaded guilty to the charge of Fraud by Abuse of Position, which is contrary to Section 4 of the Fraud Act 2006. He was sentenced to three years and four months’ imprisonment on Friday 5 November at a hearing held within Portsmouth Crown Court.
All of the money originally came from the NHS and was distributed to the PPCA (a group of 16 GP practices) via the Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group. Not surprisingly, patients and members of the public alike have reacted with outrage to the news.
Richard Rippin, head of operations at the national level NHS Counter Fraud Authority, commented: “This was an outrageous fraud against the NHS. Anybody contemplating such crimes must understand that agencies both inside and outside of the NHS are working closely to find instances of fraud and bring the criminals involved to justice. That includes recovering all moneys stolen.”
Rippin continued: “The NHS Counter Fraud Authority commends the excellent work undertaken by the Fraud and Security Management Service of Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight CCG in co-operation with the Hampshire Constabulary, who led the investigation. It’s another recent example of excellent inter-agency working to stamp out fraud against our health system.”
Further, Rippin stated: “The case reminds all in the healthcare system to remain vigilant and report any suspicion of fraud, which is so damaging. It’s hard for taxpayers and NHS patients to learn that money intended to develop primary care services was squandered by Rumi Chhapia. The NHS Counter Fraud Authority is delighted that proactive and collaborative work has paid off and the lost funds will be returned by the gambling companies where they ended up.”
Abuse of trust
On sentencing Chhapia, Judge Keith Cutler stated: “You abused the trust placed on you and took £1.13 million from the PPCA. Money which, in my judgement, should have been for GP surgeries to develop their services. This is a very serious abrogation of your responsibilities as a doctor.”
Dr Chhapia resigned in October 2020 and has been referred to the General Medical Council to consider his fitness to practice.