February 28, 2023 8.00 pm This story is over 14 months old

Grimsby GP mismanagement left pension £25K short

But a tribunal decided she hadn’t been dishonest

A Grimsby GP doctor failed to properly manage and keep records of NHS pension funds, a tribunal has found.

Pension contributions were almost £25,000 short of where they should have been in 2019.

Dr Reeta Singh failed to ensure Ashwood Surgery in Grimsby had adequate systems in place for correct staff contributions to be paid to NHS Pensions, according to the tribunal.

However, it found that her conduct wasn’t dishonest.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPTS) said in its verdict: “The tribunal was of the opinion that ordinary decent people would understand that it was possible for a busy clinician to get into a ‘mess’ with financial matters which they thought they had correctly delegated to others.

“Whilst they might not approve of the financial state of affairs which Dr Singh’s inactions allowed to develop, they would recognise that dishonesty was of a totally different order and would not consider that Dr Singh had been dishonest.”

Of 12 allegations relating to management of pension funds, four were found to not be proven. The remaining nine were found at least partly proven, with three admitted by Dr Singh too.

It is still to be decided if Dr Singh’s action merit her being struck off as a GP.

The matters dated back to 2012 to 2015.

At the time, Dr Singh was working as a general practitioner at Ashwood Surgery, which she became the sole Personal Medical Services (PMS) contract holder for in 2011. This surgery is found inside the Weelsby View Health Centre on Ladysmith Road.

Dr Singh co-owned Ashwood Surgery Ltd with her husband Mr Singh, and had 51 per cent of the shares. She delegated financial matters, including the sorting of staff contributions to NHS Pensions, to her husband.

The tribunal heard failings with the pension contributions management | Photo: Adobe Stock

The tribunal heard evidence that it was a reasonable and common practice for a GP to delegate such financial matters to someone else.

However, as the sole PMS contract holder, Dr Singh was “ultimately responsible for fulfilling the requirements of that role regarding the NHS Pension Scheme”.

Dr Singh was made aware of a problem with pension contributions in summer 2012. For the next three years, contributions were at times not being paid within specific time periods, or were being underpaid.

Negotiations between NHS Pensions and and Mr Singh throughout the period to resolve the issue were unsuccessful. It has never been disputed that the correct contributions had not been paid into the pensions scheme.

Dr Singh’s contract as the sole PMS holder at the surgery was terminated in August 2015 by NHS England.

Eventually, in 2019 it was agreed that £24,723.40 was owed in employer and employee contributions. Dr Singh has taken responsibility for the deficit by agreeing to pay it from her own pension fund.

Dr Singh told the tribunal said she and Mr Singh discussed financial matters at home and had regular meetings with their accountant.

Yet the tribunal felt that Dr Singh did not demonstrate the “the professional curiosity that she ought to have shown given the overwhelming email evidence of systems failure with pension contributions”.

As well as not ensuring adequate systems were in place, other allegations of misconduct the tribunal found proven, included:

  • Failing to ensure correct employer and/or employee contributions for staff pensions were paid to NHS Pensions
  • Failing to ensure records were kept of “all contributions deducted from salaries and wages, and update member pension records within two calendar months of the end of the financial year”
  • Failed to take adequate action to ensure unpaid staff pension contributions were paid to NHS Pensions

The tribunal both could not find evidence that Dr Singh had acted dishonestly.

It also didn’t prove that she understood enough about the NHS Pensions Scheme or the surgery’s financial affairs to know that by underpaying pensions, the surgery was keeping hold of money it was not entitled to.

It will reconvene in the future to decide whether Dr Singh’s fitness to practice is impaired because of her misconduct.

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