A nurse who mounted an “elaborate deception” by pretending to his wife and friends that he was a leading orthopaedic surgeon has been struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council register.
Theatre nurse Kevin O’Flanagan kept up the pretence for more than seven years, even allowing his occupation to be recorded as “orthopaedic practitioner” on his marriage certificate.
He was found guilty of dishonest and misleading conduct after a seven-day NMC hearing, in which all 11 charges against him were proved.
The NMC conduct and competence committee found Mr O’Flanagan, who was working at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust as a nurse at the time, had “gone to considerable lengths to maintain the fiction he was a surgeon”.
This included writing a letter to himself, purporting to be from a colleague, offering him a “fellowship in cranio-facial maxillary reconstruction surgery with a special interest in general orthopaedic trauma”.
Mr O’Flanagan worked at the trust from 2002 to 2009, and was accused of pretending to be a surgeon from 2006 to 2014.
“Mr O’Flanagan embarked on a sustained and calculated course of dishonest and misleading conduct in his private life over a prolonged period of seven years”
He also misleadingly described himself as “clinical lead – head & neck/oral and fascio maxillary surgery” on the professional networking site Linkedin.
Meanwhile his dishonesty was found to have “permeated into his professional life” after Mr O’Flanagan claimed – and was paid - for 42 bank shifts as a nurse that he did not work.
The panel heard how he persistently lied to his now ex-wife, friends and her family often talking about operations he had performed.
Witnesses included the best man at his wedding who said Mr O’Flanagan introduced himself as a surgeon when they first met and would often describe “the operations he had undertaken that day”.
On a couple of occasions he even examined and treated people for back pain, giving them prescription-only medication “which they took in good faith believing him to be a qualified doctor”, the panel heard.
The hearing was told he would wear blue scrubs at home and had several cotton caps decorated with skull and crossbones that he claimed he wore while operating.
He had a stethoscope hanging in his wardrobe and also kept a metal hip joint on the coffee table which he claimed he “had kept following a hip revision on a 90-year-old man and intended to turn into a door knob”.
The panel also heard evidence from the vicar who presided over Mr O’Flanagan’s wedding who recalled him being “vague” when she asked him about his profession beforehand “which struck her as a little odd”.
“The panel bore in mind that that honesty, integrity and trustworthiness are the bedrock of any nurse’s practice”
He went on to allow his job title to be recorded as “orthopaedic practitioner” on his marriage certificate.
In addition, the panel heard he was paid more than £6,500 for 42 bank shifts over a nine-month period from March to December 2013, which he had not worked.
He initially told colleagues this was a mistake but the panel said it was “satisfied, on the balance of probabilities that Mr O’Flanagan knew he had not worked those shifts when he put in claims for them”.
The NMC committee hearing his case said his conduct would be “deplorable” in the eyes of the profession and concluded his actions amounted to serious misconduct.
“Mr O’Flanagan embarked on a sustained and calculated course of dishonest and misleading conduct in his private life over a prolonged period of seven years,” said the panel.
“I hope the NMC can consider my actions as a moment of madness, acting in the privacy of my own mind that was turned against me in malice”
“He went to considerable lengths to maintain the fiction that he was a surgeon and to obfuscate his real profession – that of a nurse – as part of an elaborate deception, specifically designed to exploit the trust his now ex-wife, her friends and family had in him.”
In claiming for shifts he did not work, the panel said he had “abused his position of trust and the trust his colleagues had in him for his own ends”.
They concluded his actions “were inconsistent with his obligations as a registered nurse”.
“The panel bore in mind that that honesty, integrity and trustworthiness are the bedrock of any nurse’s practice,” said the committee.
“It therefore determined that Mr O’Flanagan’s actions represented serious departures from the standards of honesty and integrity that are fundamental requirements of being a registered nurse.
“The panel was in no doubt that other members of the profession would regard the conduct found proved as deplorable,” it added.
In an email to an NMC case officer, Mr O’Flanagan claimed his behaviour had been a “moment of madness”.
“I hope the NMC can consider my actions as a moment of madness, acting in the privacy of my own mind that was turned against me in malice,” he wrote. “I have never acted in manner unbecoming to a nurse, clinically ever.” He also promised he would never practise as a nurse again.
However, the panel said this and other communications from Mr O’Flanagan, who did not attend the hearing and was not represented, showed a lack of insight into the gravity of his misconduct and the impact it had on others and the profession, and it had no other option other than to strike him off.
“The panel also concluded that public trust and confidence in the nursing profession and in the regulatory process would not be sustained if the panel were not to remove him from the register,” it said.
An interim suspension order was also imposed for 18 months to cover the period during which an appeal could be made.