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University of Manchester lecturer faked having cancer to get extension on PhD thesis

A university lecturer and registered nurse falsely claimed to have inoperable brain cancer, ovarian cancer and multiple sclerosis to get extensions for her PhD, a panel heard.

Deborah Jane Ward repeatedly lied to her bosses and colleagues over a four-year period about the ‘true nature of her health’, it was said.

Ms Ward, who was employed at the University of Manchester as a lecturer in Infection Prevention and Control at the School of Nursing, will now be struck off the nursing register.

A hearing before a disciplinary panel of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) on March 26 heard she also produced false medical documents and ‘created or arranged for the creation’ of a website for a ‘fictitious GP practice’ to back up her claims.

The NMC said that she had embarked on an ‘elaborate and complex deception’ dating back to 2015 and had ‘failed to act as a role model to student nurses’.

Deborah Jane Ward, a lecturer in Infection Prevention and Control at the University of Manchester (pictured), lied about having brain cancer to get more time to complete her PhD

The fitness to practice panel have ruled that Ms Ward, who was not present or represented at the hearing, should be struck off following an 18-month interim suspension order to cover the statutory appeal period.

The hearing was told that Ms Ward emailed her line manager in October 2013 stating she had a brain tumour and applied for an extension to her PhD citing the side effects of radiotherapy.

In March 2014 she contacted her line manager again purporting to have ovarian cancer and that she would be undergoing surgery and chemotherapy treatment.

In both cases Ms Ward created false GP letters supporting her health claims and applications for further extensions to complete her PhD.

The NMC panel heard that in May 2015 she informed bosses that her brain tumour was ‘inoperable’ but had been accepted onto a clinical trial in Leeds. Later the same year Ms Ward announced that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Ms Ward was referred by her line manager to occupational health officers in August 2015, who requested permission to contact her GP.

The NMC panel was told that she provided a consent form containing details of a ‘fictitious GP practice’ and then ‘created or arranged for the creation’ of a fake GP website.

When an occupational health doctor received the requested medical report he was concerned about its ‘length and style’ and believed the documents were ‘not genuine’.

In a follow-up appointment Ms Ward became ‘very upset’ after the doctor suggested the report had been fabricated, the hearing was told.

She submitted a letter of resignation the next day and in subsequent appointments ‘admitted that the cancers and multiple sclerosis she had claimed to suffer from had no medical basis’.

The hearing was told that Ms Ward admitted providing details for a fake GP and that she had written the false reports and appendices.

In a statement submitted to the NMC, Ms Ward said: ‘Dishonesty in any form is inexcusable and unacceptable as a registrant and reflects badly on the nursing professions so I understand and agree that this cannot be tolerated by the NMC.

‘I fully accept responsibility for my actions and understand that your only course of action is to remove me from the register.

‘Obviously this saddens me as I worked diligently as a nurse and nurse teacher for over 20 years but there is no one to blame for the situation that I find myself in but myself.

‘I understand clearly that as a registered nurse I am responsible and accountable for my own actions and that there is nobody else at fault in this case.’

The NMC panel concluded that her dishonesty was ‘carried out to secure an advantage for herself’.

They said: ‘This was not dishonesty undertaken on the spur of the moment nor could it be described as an isolated act or a momentary lapse.

‘It was a course of conduct which she maintained over a long period and required elaborate preparation.

‘Ms Ward must have had multiple opportunities to tell the truth in the course of four years and report her genuine health condition(s) but did not do so.

‘Only when directly challenged did Ms Ward finally admit her deception.’