SEVERAL doctors surgeries have admitted full due diligence was not carried out prior to the hiring of a data protection officer who was later revealed to have falsely claimed to be a solicitor.
Paul Couldrey was hired by multiple surgeries, including in Worcester, on the recommendation of SW Healthcare, GP Federation for all 32 practices across South Worcestershire.
In October, the Worcester News revealed the Solicitors Regulation Authority had warned Mr Couldrey to “take remedial steps” or he could face two years in prison.
On a number of occasions, including on his personal blog and in emails, Mr Couldrey had referred to himself as a “qualified solicitor” – though, according to SRA, has since admitted he has no such qualifications.
He has since claimed this was due to a copywriter’s error who wrongly assumed he was a qualified and practicing solicitor.
As part of a response to a Freedom of Information request, Horsfield and St Martin’s Gate surgeries and Barbourne Health Centre – all in Worcester – said they believed only “minimal” due diligence was required.
SW Healthcare sent out literature to surgeries which included a recommendation to hire Mr Couldrey, managing director for PCIG Ltd, for £300 a year as DPO – describing him as a “qualified solicitor”.
Three of the five city surgeries contacted sent back the same response in relation to due diligence, which said: “We consider that a contract value of less than £500 requires minimal due diligence.”
“It would not be appropriate to investigate the qualifications of an individual employed by a company providing a service to us, where there is no requirement for the qualification to be held by that person,” it added.
Tony Dipple, business manager of Elbury Moor Medical Centre, in response to the FoI request, said Mr Couldrey had been DPO for the centre “for a few months” but no longer was.
In the package sent out by SW Healthcare, the terms and conditions of the contract said a cancellation of the services could be made if three months’ notice was given.
It is unclear why Elbury Moor and Mr Couldrey parted company or whether SW Healthcare carried out any due diligence.
In a letter published on WhatDoTheyKnow.com, addressed to Claire Gould, chief executive of SW Healthcare, and signed by Mr Couldrey, he claims a copywriter was to blame for the solicitor claims.
He referred to the falsehoods as “oversight” on his company’s behalf, after copy was written by a freelancer.
“This phrase was not corrected in the documentation and was used in blogs and advertising without Paul’s direct knowledge, simply we hadn’t checked the bio thoroughly,” he wrote.
The letter went on to say that the copywriter had used Mr Couldrey’s CV and had wrongly assumed he was a solicitor.
Source: Worcester News