Zimbabwean nurse struck off over UK NHS fraud

A ZIMBABWEAN nurse has been struck off the register after admitting fraud in the United Kingdom.

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Nomusa Muhlwa, 28, carried out a “sustained deception over many years which enabled her to obtain very substantial funding from the National Health Service to which she was not entitled”, the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s conduct and competence committee said at a hearing last week.

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In March last year, Muhlwa, of Hayes, Middlesex, was convicted of false accounting, using false instrument and possessing a false identity document at Maidstone Crown Court.

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The court heard that in July 2004, the former beauty queen applied for a bursary from the NHS to support her and her dependents while she took a nursing degree course. In support of the application, she provided a fabricated letter from the Home Office stating that she had indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

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Her application was successful and, as a result, between February 2005 and April 2008 she received £48,000 in bursary payments from the NHS. On completing her degree, she applied for work as a nurse with West Kent Primary Care Trust. She falsely claimed in the application that she was a United Kingdom/EC or EEA national.

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She was handed a wholly-suspended eight-month jail term and ordered to carry out unpaid work for 200 hours after a judge credited her for “giving something back to the community”.

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Following her conviction, the NMC summoned her to a hearing after deciding that her conviction had “clearly brought the nursing profession into disrepute”.

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Muhlwa, who appeared at the hearing with her mother, “showed remorse for her conduct” but displayed “little insight into her dishonesty or the impact which this has had on the nursing profession”, the panel said in ruling that she should be banned from nursing.

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The panel added: “The NMC Code of Professional Conduct (2008) requires that a registered nurse upholds the reputation of the profession, is open and honest and acts with integrity. The registrant’s convictions demonstrate a failure to act in accordance with the NMC Code of Professional Conduct and clear impairment of her fitness to practise.

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“The registrant’s actions amounted to a sustained deception over many years which enabled her to obtain very substantial funding from the NHS to which she was not entitled. As was indicated by Mr Justice Blake in the case Atkinson v GMC in 2009, erasure is not necessarily inevitable and necessary in every case where dishonest conduct has been substantiated.

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“However, for a lesser sanction to be sufficient a panel would normally require compelling evidence of insight and a number of other factors upon which it could rely that the dishonesty in question appeared to be out of character or somewhat isolated in its duration or range and accordingly there was the prospect of the individual returning to practise without the reputation of the profession being disproportionately damaged for those reasons.

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“In the panel’s view, the registrant has shown a significant lack of insight and any sanction other than a striking-off order would significantly undermine the reputation of the profession and the public’s confidence in the NMC.”

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The panel said the former Miss Zimbabwe UK beauty pageant contestant can apply for “restoration” after five years of the May 3 ruling.