Dishonest optician overcharged patients

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A cheating optician has been struck off after being found guilty of dishonestly overcharging hundreds of patients.

Lee Bernard, who lives in Bures, appeared before a hearing of the General Optical Council held in London.

It found his fitness to practise as a dispensing optician was impaired, and barred him from practising as an optician.

Mr Bernard was a partner at a branch of Specsavers in Witham, Essex, where he admitted that – over a two-year period from 2010 to 2012 – he failed to ensure patients were supplied with 426 lens products they had ordered.

Instead, they received a product with an inferior lens, resulting in customers being overcharged more than £12,000.

He also admitted patients were not informed they were receiving an inferior product to the one they ordered, and did not get their consent to do so.

However, he disputed he had acted dishonestly, denying he knew or believed patients were receiving inferior lenses.

Giving evidence, Mr Bernard said it was, at most, poor management on his part that resulted in the provision of interior products.

However, the General Optical Council’s committee said that, based on the volume of transactions, Mr Bernard, as co-owner of the business, would have known that inferior products had been provided to customers.

In a report of the hearing, it said: “The dishonesty had occurred over a lengthy period, had been persistent and had involved hundreds of patients.

“The committee considered that Mr Bernard’s evidence was generally lacking in credibility or plausibility.

“The committee found that the facts admitted by him, and the allegation of dishonesty found proven against him, amount to misconduct.

“The fitness of Mr Bernard to practise as a dispensing optician is impaired.”

Mr Bernard started his career in optics in June 2001 in Kelvedon, Essex, and moved to Specsavers in Colchester, progressing to practice manager, and subsequently becoming a joint partner in the Witham branch in 2010.

After an anonymous complaint made to Specsavers in 2012, Specsavers conducted an audit of the store.

The allegations made in the complaint were not found, but the audit raised concerns about what was happening at the branch, the hearing heard.

After analysing business transactions, Specsavers found patients had received 426 lens products with an inferior lens to the product ordered, and customers had been overcharged by a total of £12,810.

It was also found that Mr Bernard had personally processed the sale of around 135 of the products.

When Specsavers presented Mr Bernard with the results of its investigation, he resigned on the same day. The hearing was told he offered, and it was agreed, to pay Specsavers £27,000 to cover the cost of the investigation. Specsavers decided to take no further action.

An anonymous complaint in 2012 to the General Optical Council, about the Witham store, resulted in the hearing.