Practice manager jailed for £46,000 theft from GP surgery

A practice manager in York has been jailed for 20 months after stealing £46,000 to pay off credit card debts, in the latest in a string of cases involving theft by GP surgery staff in recent months.

Former practice manager James Collumb (Photo: SWNS)
Former practice manager James Collumb (Photo: SWNS)

James Collumb set up a bank account in his name to siphon off practice funding over an 18-month period. The practice manager diverted £40,000 that should have gone to NHS England into his own account, and duplicated payments to suppliers - sending identical amounts of money to himself.

He was caught out after putting in overtime claims while on sick leave - but 'went on the attack', threatening to sue his employers when challenged, according to prosecutors. Partners at the 7,400-patient Old School Medical Practice were then forced to spend time investigating his complaints about how the surgery had treated him.

York Crown Court heard last month that Mr Collumb began offending when he racked up large debts after a business venture went wrong, leaving him with credit card bills worth more than £80,000.

Practice managers convicted

His conviction comes just months after two other practice managers were jailed within days of each other for stealing six-figure sums from their employers.

Specialist accountants have warned practices not to allow a single individual to have sole access to practice accounts - and to carry out regular checks for unusual behaviour. The member of staff who approves invoices should not also be responsible for making the payments, accountants say.

Mr Collumb, of Barwick-in-Elmet, near Leeds, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud by abuse of position committed between March 23, 2017 and October 24, 2018.

Judge Simon Hickey said: 'You must have known that such a small surgery would have had difficulty in detecting you. A lot of time and trouble could have been saved if you had admitted what you had done.'

Money stolen

The practice manager's defence solicitor advocate Mark Foley told the court that he recognised it was 'somewhat amoral, having stolen a large sum of money' to react by challenging the practice over how he had been treated.

He said Mr Collumb, who would complain of micromanaging if anyone tried to intefere with his work, had used the money to meet credit card debts and now faced bankruptcy. Mr Foley told the court: 'He was a broken man. He was affected by physical ill health, mental ill heath and the strains and stresses of crippling debt.'

The practice manager, who joined the practice in 2014, faces a confiscation hearing next year. Mr Foley said he could repay all the money from his equity in his marital home.

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