Questions over mental state of optician in fraud case

AN OPTICIAN who played a part in an NHS fraud scam that has cost the taxpayer around £40,ooo to investigate has yet to be sentenced due to question marks over the true state of his mental health.

Iqbal Nabi, of Slough, a dispensing optician, was along with Helen James, of Dunstable, Bedfordshire, a former opthalmic medical practitioner, accused of making fraudulent claims to the NHS between January and October 2009.

The pair were charged with £5,000 of fraud, but NHS Counter Fraud Service investigators believed the real figure could be as much as £150,000.

New Global Visions, an opticians, based in Robertson Street, received cash for eye tests that were never carried out, as well as for contact lenses and glasses with incorrect prescriptions.

Nabi, 38, pleaded not guilty to fraud, but was convictedfollowing an eight-day trial at Hove Crown Court in July this year.

He was due to be sentenced on Monday ( Oct 8) at Hove Crown Court, however the judge decided to postpone sentencing in order that a second psychiatrist could compile a report.

At the hearing, Nabi appeared unsteady on his feet, walking with the aid of two sticks, and appeared dazed and unresponsive, muttering thoroughout. Words including “Hastings” and “2009” were repeatedly audible.

Judge David Rennie said a second opinion was necessary “to assist the issue of whether there is a genuine mental illness and some psychological problem, or some malingering.”

James, 56, who worked as a locum at the opticians, pleaded guilty on July 8, 2011.

At Monday’s sentencing hearing, Stephen Shay for the prosecution said: “It would seem that there was no benefit to her except that she wanted to keep this post because it brought i n valuable income.”

Judge David Rennie handed James a four month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, along with £1,000 in costs and 250 hours community service.

He said: “This conduct was wholly out of character, I am satisfiedit will never happen again.

“You did not plan this fraud on the NHS, but your involvement in it was in breach of trust.”

The Observer reported at the time how hundreds of people were left wondering whether their glasses carried the correct lenses after New Global Visions closed suddenly.

Nabi is now due to be sentenced on November 20.