A doctor with a celebrity-studded client list turned a blind eye while his wife riffled through private medical records and sent begging letters to patients, a General Medical Council hearing was told yesterday.
Dr Alun Jones, 61, whose former patients included the Duchess of Kent, Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta Jones, was accused of failing to take steps to stop his wife breaking into his consulting rooms at night. His wife, referred to as Mrs A, wrote to loyal patients saying Dr Jones "desperately needed" money because he had fallen into deep debt.
He had run into financial difficulties after marrying the woman, his second wife, whose apparent manic depression and compulsive obsessive disorder made her prone to "extravagant and on occasion bizarre behaviour", the hearing was told.
Lydia Barnfather, for the GMC, said: "That behaviour led to considerable financial difficulty for the couple."
The disciplinary committee heard that the doctor was told in 1998 that Mrs A was going into his rooms at night. Dr Jones initially told hospital authorities he was unaware this was happening and then promised to lock his rooms.
But it is claimed that Dr Jones took no adequate steps to stop her from getting into his consulting rooms at Thames Valley Nuffield Hospital near Slough.
By early 1999, Dr Jones was confiding in the hospital manager that Mrs A had obtained his patients' addresses and telephone numbers, it was alleged. Miss Barnfather said: "He was aware she was contacting patients and requesting money from those loyal patients. Money was being requested on the basis that Mrs A was claiming Dr Jones desperately needed money.
"He took inadequate steps to prevent the breaches being repeated and furthermore went on to behave in a wholly dishonest way in respect of his finances," Miss Barnfather said.
The hearing was told Mrs A got hold of a confidential letter written to Dr Jones from a surgeon about a patient who had been confirmed with cancer. She altered the letter so that her own name was used in place of the patient's, to try to obtain money from her former husband.
The alleged scam was uncovered when the letter was mistakenly faxed to the London jewellers Tiffany's, which returned it to the surgeon who first wrote it.
Miss Barnfather said Dr Jones had been a busy and successful practitioner. "There were no concerns about this doctor's conduct until into the 1990s. There were queries as to breaches of confidentiality and latterly his honesty."
She said the lapses in his conduct appeared to have begun after he started a relationship with the woman.
The hearing was also told that Dr Jones was cautioned by Thames Valley Police over forging the signature of his divorced first wife to cash an insurance policy. He admitted doing it, saying he wanted to avoid the "awkwardness" of having to contact her.
Dr Jones denies serious professional misconduct. The doctor, who lives with Mrs A and her three children in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, could be struck off the medical register if he is found guilty.
The case was adjourned to a date to be arranged.