A dentist has been sentenced for defrauding the NHS out of £74,000 – including claiming to have performed 45 treatments in one day.
Dr Sheena Lalani, 46, of Kennington Road, defrauded the NHS for thousands by fabricating claims in order to increase the money she was paid by the NHS, as well as backdating claims.
Lalani held contracts with the NHS to provide dental services from her two practices: Gentle Dental Care, Chapter Street, Westminster, and Maycroft Dental Centre, Chobham Road, Woking, Surrey. After the fraud investigation started, she relinquished the Maycroft contract.
She has been sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years, as well as carrying out 250 hours of unpaid work, given a 20 day rehabilitation order and ordered to pay £662 of NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) costs within three months.
She had pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates Court. She was charged with fraud by abuse of position under the Fraud Act 2006.
Investigation into Sheena began following a call to the NHSCFA’s Fraud and Corruption Reporting Line (FCRL), run by Crimestoppers. She was reported as only attending her Westminster surgery Gentle Dental for two days a week, despite advertising dental services as five days a week.
When interviewed by NHS investigators, Sheena argued that if she owed the NHS money it was only due to poor administrative practices, and her record-keeping being in ‘confusion and disarray’ – not dishonesty.
However, when the investigation compared payments data with patient records from Gentle Dental, it showed Sheena had submitted 378 fraudulent claims over three financial years (April 2014 to March 2017). She therefore gained over £74,000 from the NHS that she was not entitled to.
The majority of her false claims were for procedures that attract the top rate of payment to a dentist from the NHS.
The investigation further turned against Sheena when investigators gathered evidence such as witness statements from patients who never received claimed treatments, dental laboratories that were unable to provide evidence of making devices Sheena claimed for, and five times the normal number of top-rate claims for payment from NHS.
She also claimed to have performed 45 treatments in just one day.
Dr Lalani paid back the money shortly before sentencing, and only when the NHSCFA was about to start a confiscation investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002. The payback figure was raised to £87,298.37 to account for inflation. She would have had to be pay this amount under POCA, but that process is no longer necessary – a saving to the public purse.
Richard Rippin, Head of Operations at the NHSCFA, said: “The great majority of dentists are skilled, honest, hardworking professionals who put their patients first. When Dr Lalani abused her trusted position by falsifying claims and claiming for work not done, she not only defrauded the NHS but let down the dental profession.
“It is quite possible that, had she not been caught, the scale of the debt and the crime would have increased exponentially.
“Over the last 18 months, the NHS has been under unprecedented pressure, with resources being stretched to the limit. We and our partners in the NHS work hard to ensure that these NHS resources are protected.
“Today’s result shows the dedication of the NHSCFA’s National Investigations Service, bringing those who abuse the NHS to justice. We are here to detect and investigate those who commit fraud and will seek all forms of redress. We urge anyone who suspects someone of defrauding the NHS to report them to us.”
The sentencing judge, HHJ Perrins said: “Lalani’s fraud was sophisticated, well thought out and well executed”.