A society doctor who forged an insurance claim to clear debts caused by his wife's lavish lifestyle was found guilty of serious professional misconduct yesterday.
Dr Alun Jones, 63, whose private patients included the Duchess of Kent, Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta Jones, was severely reprimanded by the General Medical Council for a fraudulent claim he made on an ex-wife's policy, for which he received a police caution in 1998.
His actions, the GMC said, were "dishonest, inappropriate and a breach of the trust which the public were entitled to expect". The GMC heard that the GP's wife had resorted to begging funds from some of her husband's patients to fund her extravagant lifestyle.
On Saturday, Dr Jones was cleared by the GMC of the main charge of failing to protect his patients' best interests. The professional misconduct committee decided he had taken all reasonable measures to keep records away from his current wife, who approached her husband's patients for loans of up to £10,000 after obtaining their details from her husband's consulting rooms at the Thames Valley Nuffield Hospital in Slough, Berkshire.
The GMC heard that to satisfy her taste for expensive clothes, jewellery and make-up Sofi Jones, 38, allegedly approached four of his patients and asked for money, claiming her husband was "too proud" to ask them himself.
During the hearing, Dr Jones described how his wife sneaked into his office at night to steal cheques from drawers.
Adrian Hopkin, for the defence, said that Mrs Jones, who came from a wealthy central American family, had "always had everything she wanted in life". He said she was spending "an enormous amount of money that they didn't have". After considering their judgment for three hours on Saturday, the GMC found that Dr Jones had done all he could to restrain her from accessing the confidential information.
The GP told the panel that additional locks were installed at his consulting rooms at the hospital and his wife was barred. The committee said that they were satisfied that Dr Jones had taken sufficient steps to prevent his wife from breaching his patients' privacy again.
Mr Hopkin said that Dr Jones no longer took home any of his patients' records and kept a key to his filing cabinets "under lock and key" at home or on his person. His new surgery is equipped with a state-of-the-art alarm system to prevent his wife gaining access without his permission.
Dr Jones assigned all financial control of his practice to his solicitors, hoping it would end the "embarrassment". "I had no control over my wife," he told the hearing. "She had a mind of her own – I couldn't stop her unless I chained her to the floor at home."
His attempt to gain cash through his ex-wife's insurance policy, although "isolated", was a "significant and serious failure in an unblemished career" and thus he was reprimanded, the committee said.