Employers Warned of Increasing Number of Dishonest Job Applications as NHS Director is Jailed for CV Exaggerations

A study by Powerchex found a rise in CV lies as the NHS’s pre-employment screening practices come under scrutiny after director jailed for CV exaggerations.

London, United Kingdom, January 14, 2009 --(PR.com)-- A study by Powerchex, a leading pre-employment screening firm, found that 17% of all applicants they referenced lied on their CV, up by one third from the previous year. The survey found that an increasingly competitive job market caused by the credit crunch has led to a considerable rise in falsifications and embellishments on CVs with further increases expected in 2009.

“People exaggerating their qualifications and experience on CVs has always been a problem for companies who are recruiting but there has unquestionably been an increase in the number of applications that have false information on them”, says Alexandra Kelly, Managing Director of Powerchex.

Mrs Kelly, who previously worked within Operational Risk, added: “People who thought they were secure in their jobs took on long term commitments such as mortgages and personal finance. They then suddenly found themselves out in the cold in a very tough employment market and in order to get an edge on the competition they are willing to lie about things on their CVs that they think will never get checked. Companies end up employing underqualified individuals who do not have the experience to do the job simply because they don’t check them out before they start working.”

The findings were backed up when a senior director at the NHS was jailed for exaggerating his qualifications during his job application. In January 2007 Lee Whitehead was appointed director of planning and modernisation at Stoke-on-Trent Primary Care Trust (PCT) after falsely claiming that in addition to being a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) he had a first class bachelors degree, a Master’s degree and a doctorate, when in fact he only held a second class BSc in Psychology and was not a member of the BPS.

6 months after being appointed Mr Whitehead resigned his £78,000 a year job after suspicions were raised by a co-worker and Mr Whitehead was unable to provide proof of his qualifications. Even though the post-holder was not required to hold either a Master's or a PhD, or be a member of the BPS, the court handed out a 12 week prison sentence after Mr Whitehead pleaded guilty to obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and making a false instrument.

The lies were not discovered by pre-employment screening checks but by a suspicious co-worker and Mr Whitehead had made the same claims on applications going back to June 2003. These included the Vale of Aylesbury PCT, where he had worked from April 2005 until he started employment with Stoke PCT.

“It is very surprising that the NHS has chosen to appoint a senior official without checking their qualifications” says Alexandra Kelly, Managing Director of Powerchex. “Mr Whitehead occupied a position of public trust in a Primary Care Trust and there is no excuse that his background wasn’t thoroughly investigated at the recruitment stage”.

This is not the first time that the NHS has failed to spot fraudulent applicants for senior positions. In 2003, Neil Taylor produced a bogus degree certificate to land the position as head of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust.

“The risks that the NHS takes when they skimp on the background investigation or when they start an applicant prior to the checks being completed can have very serious repercussions” says Kelly. “It is a particularly risky approach when the qualifications are of a clinical nature. This can endanger patients’ lives”.

Allan Carter, Head of Operations at NHS Counter Fraud Service (CFS), urged for stringent background checks on applicants prior to them starting work. "I would urge all health bodies to undertake robust pre-employment checks regardless of the previous roles people claim to have done. This is not simply embellishing a CV, it is making false claims which can end – as it has for Whitehead – in a jail sentence."

Notes To Editors:

About Powerchex
Powerchex is the UK’s premier pre-employment screening firm for financial institutions. Based in the City of London, Powerchex checks the background, employment history, criminal records and professional qualifications of applicants on behalf of financial institutions. It sets the industry benchmark of 5 days for a background check.

Andrew McIntosh
Powerchex Limited
Gun Court, 70 Wapping Lane
London E1W 2RD