Doctor filmed stealing patient's coat because 'it was cold outside' to keep job

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Dr Rajashree Chavan took the coat from Lister Hospital (pictured) (Image: East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust)
Dr Rajashree Chavan took the coat from Lister Hospital (pictured) (Image: East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust)

An NHS consultant stole a coat as she went home from a shift at a hospital and later told police it was because "it was cold and she wanted protection from the weather", a disciplinary hearing was told.

Anaesthetist Dr Rajashree Chavan was caught on CCTV smuggling the item of clothing belonging to a patient's mother from Lister Hospital, in Stevenage, on January 25, 2021.

When questioned by a police officer she said she had "borrowed" the coat "because she wanted protection from the weather".

The senior medic has avoided being struck off for her dishonesty and has instead been told she will be suspended for three months.

The Medical Professionals Tribunal Service hearing was told that CCTV footage showed Dr Chavan spotting the coat - which was said to have 'sentimental value' to its owner - hanging in a hospital hallway, and then touching and moving the item before exiting the area.

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Doctor filmed stealing patient's coat because 'it was cold outside' to keep jobDr Chavan has been a Fellow of the Royal College of Anaesthetists since 2010 (PA)

Returning later, the doctor is then seen carrying a bag containing the coat, which had been hidden under another item placed at the top of the bag, over the stolen item.

The hearing determined that as Dr Chavan did not know to whom the coat belonged, she could not have been planning to return it and would have known that the theft would distress the owner.

The tribunal heard that the item belonged to a patient's mother, who said she was left feeling 'sick' when she learned the identity of the thief.

She had been attending the hospital with her son when her coat was stolen by Dr Chavan, who has been a Fellow of the Royal College of Anaesthetists since 2010.

In a witness statement, the victim of the theft - who is referred to only as Ms A - said: "I don't suppose it matters who stole my coat, but I feel a bit disappointed that it was a doctor, particularly, when a doctor is supposed to be in a position of trust.

"It makes you question a doctor's character and I am not sure that I could trust a doctor to look after me or my son.

"You're supposed to be able to trust the doctors and I felt sick when I found out that it had been a doctor who had stolen my coat."

The tribunal said that the incident had clearly had a 'serious impact' on the victim, and added: "Although Dr Chavan could not have known that the coat had sentimental value to Ms A, she would have known that it either belonged to a patient or a family member of a patient, or to a fellow member of the hospital staff."

Dr Chavan accepted a Community Resolution Order after she attended Stevenage Police Station in February 2021 to answer questions about the theft.

At the disciplinary hearing, her representative argued that the anaesthetist had been under a "huge amount of personal and professional stress" at the time of the incident.

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Covid death rates were at their highest in January 2021, and Dr Chavan had already told colleagues that she was exhausted due to workplace stress and burnout.

In addition to this, the theft took place on the day of Dr Chavan's mother's funeral, which she was unable to attend due to the pandemic.

The lockdowns had also meant that Dr Chavan had been unable to visit her terminally ill mother at her home in India, even knowing she was approaching the end of her life.

The tribunal decided that a suspension was "appropriate and proportionate" and that striking her off would have been "disproportionate".

"This was an isolated, single occurrence of dishonesty," the panel concluded. "The Tribunal concluded in all the circumstances that, though serious, Dr Chavan's misconduct was not fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.

"It considered that erasure would therefore be disproportionate. It considered that the risk of repetition of the misconduct was small."

Tim Hanlon

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15.07.2024, 17:44 • Investigation