Mail Online: Indian NHS ‘cancer specialist’ recruited via Skype was so incompetent he had expertise of a first year university medical student
An NHS ‘cancer specialist’ hired from India following a Skype interview has been barred from practising in the UK after it emerged he has the same level of skill as a first year medical student.
Manik Sharma, a radiographer responsible for treating cancer patients, was given a contract with Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust following a successful interview over the internet video phone service Skype.
But when Sharma started work at the hospital his obvious lack of competence and understanding stunned his senior colleagues who compared his skill level to that of a first year university student.
NHS bosses terminated his contract after just two months amid fears Sharma’s lack of expertise could potentially put patients at risk.
Sharma, who is in his 30s, was also reported to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) which has now suspended him from practicing for one year for failing to meet the required level of competence of a newly qualified radiographer.
During an HCPC hearing, one of Sharma’s senior colleagues said she had not seen such a ‘lack of fundamental understanding’ in her 29 years working for the NHS.
The radiographer’s work standard was felt to be so poor he had to be supervised at all times.
Sharma – who would have received a salary of up to £34,000 annually – also frequently walked out on patients in the middle of consultations and treatments to make personal phone calls.
Stephen Fash, chairman of the disciplinary panel, said: ‘It was clear that Mr Sharma never reached a level of competence where he could practice autonomously.
‘He never reached a stage when he could work without constant supervision. The panel has identified a number of serious deficiencies in Mr Sharma’s practice.’
Sharma – thought to be working back in India – was suspended for one year by the council. He was not present and was not represented at the hearing.
Mr Fash added: ‘It will be open to him to undertake additional education and training in order to demonstrate to the panel which conducts the review hearing that he has addressed those deficiencies.’
Sharma was employed in May last year 2012 following the Skype quizzing but his contract was terminated in July.
A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘The trust dismissed Mr Sharma during his probationary period on the grounds of capability.
‘Our lead for radiotherapy took the decision to report him to the Health and Care Professions Council in order to protect the public and in the best interests of patient safety.’
While regulated by a different body from the HCPC, new measures are being brought in to ensure the calibre of foreign doctors.
Doctors coming to Britain from outside Europe already face strict language tests.
But GPs and hospital doctors from countries in the European Union can work in the UK without any national checks on their competence or language skills.
Under the new laws, bodies of GPs called clinical commissioning groups have a legal duty to ensure that a doctor’s English is up to scratch before they are employed.
The General Medical Council has been pushing for tougher testing in the wake of the death of David Gray in Cambridgeshire in 2008.
The 70-year-old was killed when Dr Daniel Ubani gave him 20 times the legal dose of morphine.
The German doctor – on his first out-of-hours shift – had not had to prove his competence or ability with English before being employed by the Cambridgeshire NHS trust.
Dr Ubani said he was confused by differences between drugs used here and in Germany.
He had previously been denied NHS work in Leeds because of his poor English.
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