‘Dishonest’ Peterborough hospital consultant loses appeal

Sathiyakeerthy Ariyanayagam
Sathiyakeerthy Ariyanayagam
Have your say

A top Peterborough hospital consultant who was struck off after pretending to be on a part time contract when he was being paid to work full time has lost his appeal.

Dr Sathiyakeerthy Ariyanayagam was lead consultant for sexual health at Peterborough City Hospital, and told colleagues he was a part time worker, coming in on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He was actually paid for working a five day week.

Evidence from a swipe card used to access a hospital played a central role in getting the consultant struck off.

The card helped to establish he absent from Peterborough City Hospital in Cambridgeshire on 91 days when he should have been present.

The panel ordered the consultant to be struck off the register for dishonesty in July 2015.

Dr Ariyanayagam appealed to the High Court in London. Now Mr Justice Neil Garnham has ruled there were “no possible grounds” for interfering with the panel’s decision.

The judge said Dr Ariyanayagam joined the hospital full time as a consultant in January 2007. In 2011 he was designated clinical lead for the department for sexual health, with managerial responsibilities.

His employment contract required him to be present at the hospital throughout the week. The complaint against him related to his absence on Mondays and Tuesdays between April 19 2011 and April 15 2013.

The judge said external human resources consultant Elizabeth Roe was commissioned to investigate after concerns were raised.

Ms Roe conducted a review of “access data” - computer records indicating when swipe cards had been used to access different parts of the hospital.

The investigator also considered documentary evidence and interviewed staff before concluding the evidence indicated a pattern of prolonged unauthorised absences.

The hospital trust dismissed Dr Ariyanayagam without notice for gross misconduct. The matter was then referred to the GMC, leading to the fitness to practise panel hearing.

The consultant told the panel he rarely used his office on non-clinic days, preferring to work in one of the consultation rooms when not using the consultants’ lounge, canteen or library.

But the disciplinary panel rejected his evidence as “inherently implausible”.

Upholding the panel’s decision, Mr Justice Garnham said that most of the evidence from witnesses was that the consultant did not appear to attend the hospital on Mondays and Tuesdays most weeks.

The panel also pointed out the access data suggested a clear pattern - “on the days when it was accepted the appellant was present there was a significant amount of access data: on the days when it was not there was no such access data”, said the judge.

“The panel made it clear that it was not content to rely simply on the access data, and wherever there was other evidence that pointed in a different direction they would not rely on it.”

The judge also rejected Dr Ariyanayagam’s appeal against being struck off.

The judge said: “In my judgment, given the persistence and serious nature of this dishonesty, that was not just within the range of reasonable sanctions: it was inevitable.”