A CITY GP is being probed over allegations that he defrauded the NHS out of almost £300,000.
Dr Nigel Ostrowski, who worked for decades at Bangholm Loan Medical Centre, has been hit with an interim suspension by the General Medical Council (GMC) over claims that he falsified records to dishonestly claim a bonanza worth more than a quarter of a million pounds from the health service.
The Evening News can reveal that NHS Lothian is supporting an NHS Counter Fraud Services probe – believed to have been labelled Operation Triangle – and a GMC investigation into Dr Ostrowski is also under way. He refused to comment when approached at his large home in leafy Mayfield, on a street in which houses can cost £1m.
In Scotland, GPs earn an average salary of around £90,000 per year. One insider said that Dr Ostrowski was facing an allegation that he had conned the NHS out of as much as £280,000. It is alleged he made it appear he carried out more work than he had – billing the NHS for procedures he didn’t carry out on patients.
GPs receive incentive payments for carrying out certain services under an aspect of their contracts known as the quality and outcomes framework. The inquiries into his conduct will focus on whether he made up treatments, so he could then pocket the cash for them. A senior NHS source said: “Entries were made in notes and it seems that the patients were not seen. It looks like he had been marking patients down for things like blood pressure reviews and diabetic checks when he had not done them.
“His partners at the practice reported him when they noticed the anomalies, so they were whistleblowers and acted with great integrity. It was certainly not an easy thing for them to do.”
It is understood that Dr Ostrowski quit his job, which he had held since the 1980s, and the health board’s list of GPs, before internal disciplinary action could be taken.
NHS Lothian’s finances and resources committee has agreed it is possible to pursue Dr Ostrowski, rather than his former practice, for the apparent huge overpayment, although legal advice will be obtained by the health board.
Dr Ostrowski, a former anaesthetist, was made the subject of a suspension order by the GMC last October. A spokeswoman for the GMC refused to comment on an ongoing investigation, although Dr Ostrowski, who was born in 1954 and is approaching retirement age, could be hauled before a fitness to practice hearing in future.
Once the separate NHS Counter Fraud Services investigation is complete, a file will be passed to the procurator fiscal and charges could be brought against him.
A spokesman for NHS Counter Fraud Services said: “We can confirm there is an ongoing investigation. We have no further comment at this time.”
Dr Ostrowski, a respected figure in his community with more than 30 years’ experience, received rave reviews from patients before the alleged fraud was uncovered at the practice, which was formerly known as Dr Nigel Ostrowski and Partners.
Susan Goldsmith, NHS Lothian’s finance director, said: “NHS Lothian takes any allegations of fraud extremely seriously. We are assisting NHS Counter Fraud Services with their investigations into this matter and as this is an ongoing inquiry we cannot comment further at this time.”
Bangholm Loan Medical Centre declined to comment.