A SURGERY practice manager has been jailed for stealing £46,000 from its accounts.

James Collumb, 54, “went on the attack” and threatened to sue the Old School Practice, Copmanthorpe, through an employment tribunal when it queried his overtime claims, said Nick Adlington, prosecuting.

He didn’t tell the surgery management he had already used his access to the surgery finances to divert more than £40,000 which should have been paid to the NHS into a bank account he specially set up.

Nor did he tell them how he had duplicated payments to legitimate suppliers with identical ones to the same account and continued to do so while on sick leave.

In addition to the financial loss, the practice’s senior partners had had to divert time and resources from helping patients into investigating his complaints about how the surgery treated him, said Mr Adlington.

Defence solicitor advocate Mark Foley said: “He recognises it is somewhat amoral, having stolen a large sum of money, he should have reacted in that way.”

He said Collumb had used the money to meet credit card debts and now faced bankruptcy as he still owed more than £80,000.

“He was a broken man, his mind wasn't working properly,” he said. “He was affected by physical ill health, mental ill heath and the strains and stresses of crippling debt.”

His problems had begun with a pub venture that left him heavily in debt.

Collumb, of Barwick-in-Elmet, near Leeds, pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud by abuse of position committed between March 23, 2017 and October 24, 2018.

Jailing him for 20 months, Judge Simon Hickey said: “You must have known that such a small surgery would have had difficulty in detecting you.

“A lot of time and trouble could have been saved if you had admitted what you had done.”

Collumb faces a confiscation hearing next year. Mr Foley said he could repay all the money from his equity in his marital home.

His wife was divorcing him after hearing about his fraud.

Mr Adlington said Collumb joined the practice in March 2014 and accused others of “micro-managing” him if they tried to be involved in his work.

When he put in claims for overtime while on sick leave, the operations manager raised concerns with the practice’s partners and started checking the accounts.

That led to the discovery that legitimate payments by the surgery were duplicated by identical amounts described in the same way but paid into an unknown account, including one while Collumb was off sick.

A £40,000 City of York Council refund that should have been paid to NHS England had gone into Collumb’s bank account.