01 Dec 2023
A tribunal has reprimanded a nurse for professional misconduct after she was convicted and jailed for insurance fraud.
Queensland registered nurse Alison Hutchison was referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (the NMBA) after she was convicted in December 2020 of insurance fraud and sentenced to 18 months jail, suspended after three months with an operational period of three years.
The NMBA alleged professional misconduct in that her conduct fell substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a registered nurse.
While the tribunal stated that the matter was unusual in that there was no suggestion the standard of Ms Hutchison's clinical care was not appropriate, it said it was important that members of the nursing profession behave in a way that did not discredit the profession. 'This is important for confidence in the professional integrity of the profession, and its members.'
In March 2023, the tribunal heard that Ms Hutchinson's car had been damaged. She devised a plan to have it driven from Cairns to New South Wales where it was secreted at a friend's house. Ms Hutchinson returned to Cairns and months later reported it stolen to police. She also reported the car as stolen to her insurance provider and made a claim. The insurer paid Ms Hutchinson almost $20,000.
After a tip-off however, police were able to confirm Ms Hutchinson's dishonesty and she was charged with insurance fraud. The insurer went on to locate the vehicle and sold it, recovering $10,421.76 with the outstanding balance repaid in full by Ms Hutchinson.
She subsequently pleaded guilty to criminal charges involving insurance fraud. The police advised the Office of the Health Ombudsman, who in turn advised the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) of the criminal proceedings and outcome.
The tribunal considered the negative effects the criminal court proceedings, and the NMBA investigation had had on Ms Hutchinson life and career. Ms Hutchinson had resigned from one role (due to the investigation) and lost her employment from another. The tribunal acknowledged she may have suffered significant shame through the process.
Due to her having no other criminal and no disciplinary or regulatory history, the tribunal decided an education requirement was a preferable option and ordered that it be a condition of her registration that she complete education about her legal and ethical obligations. The tribunal also ordered that Ms Hutchinson be reprimanded.
Read the tribunal’s full decision on AustLII.