Kate Matthew, a nurse from South Wales, has been struck off for forging Botox prescriptions from the NHS for her private beauty business, Kate Matthew Medical Aesthetics, which specialises in lip fillers, eyebrow raises and face lifts. She was moonlighting from her NHS work as a health visitor for the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board based in Newport when she carried out the fraud. Following an investigation and a fitness to practise hearing before the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), Ms Matthew was struck off indefinitely from working as a registered nurse.

Ms Matthew photocopied blank prescriptions signed by a doctor to obtain Botox. Her actions were discovered when a pharmacist contacted the doctor who signed the prescriptions with a query. As he had no idea what the prescription was for, he contacted the pharmacy for more information, revealing the fraud. Ms Matthew was confronted by the pharmacist the next time she tried to get a new prescription.

During the hearing before the fitness to practise panel, Ms Matthew admitted that she could have put ‘lives at risk’ if her private clients had medical conditions. When she was first confronted, she denied everything. Later, at the hearing, she said: “I didn’t want to admit to it. I was ashamed.”

A separate criminal prosecution was brought and Ms Matthew pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud. She was given an eight month sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work by Cardiff Crown Court.

Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, commented: “Ms Matthew is still planning to continue her private practice in a ‘managerial role’ and will hire a nurse to carry out the cosmetic procedures. This seems to be the popular model for an aesthetic business – with an unqualified person owning and running the business, employing a qualified person to ensure that they comply with the law. It is interesting in this case that there seems to be no intended action against the doctor who signed the prescription. It is reported that this doctor was not aware of the fraud and that he signed a blank prescription in good faith. However, the whole point of a signature on a prescription is for that signature to be added after the prescription has been completed, to prevent fraud like that Ms Matthew committed from happening.

“This case follows recent reports in the Daily Mail that young girls are being offered lip fillers on social media by amateur beauticians with no medical training. Lip filler treatments, which involve having your lips injected with acid, can lead to extreme swelling, infections and allergic reactions. Reporters from the Daily Mail uncovered clinics that were willing to provide treatment without proof of age, offering special deals if the girls agreed to share a syringe with a friend, and claiming that the treatment is provided by a qualified doctor when this is not the case.

“These stories are a worrying reminder of the problems that we face due to a lack of regulation of non-surgical treatments. We do not yet have legislation in the UK to prevent non-medical professionals from delivering injectable cosmetic treatments. This means that technically a beauty therapist can carry out such treatment. However, while some training providers will accept beauty therapists and aestheticians onto courses to learn injecting techniques, the general consensus in the aesthetic medicine industry, and the medical sector as a whole, is that injectable treatments should only be performed by qualified and experienced medical professionals.

“Although current legislation does not prevent therapists from performing injectable treatments, it is important to remember that certain treatments, such as Botox, are classed as a prescription only medicine and therefore can only be prescribed by a doctor, dentist or independent nurse prescriber. A prescriber can take liability for the administration of the drug under their supervision. This means that legally anyone can give a Botox injection as long as they are directed to do so by a prescriber before it is administered, but the liability for patient safety rests with the prescriber. We believe that there need to be regulations which dictate that injectable treatments can only be carried out by a qualified medical professional. Ms Matthew’s story should be a clear warning to any nurse practitioner who may be operating in a similar manner.”