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Doctor billed dead friends’ family for his medical help

‘Insensitive’: Dr Bentley was cleared of misconduct PICTURE: CAVENDISH

A DOCTOR billed the family of a dead couple for informal medical advice after being neighbours for 30 years.

Consultant physician Stephen Bentley, 75, shocked relatives of Harry and Joan Sutcliffe when he gave their probate lawyer an invoice for 68 ‘consultations’.

With it was a covering letter saying: ‘I have never charged them for professional services provided. More fool me you might say.’

Shock: Margaret Sutcliffe, (right), and her aunt Joan Hankinson

A disciplinary panel heard the doctor had been a long-standing friend of the Sutcliffes and would watch Manchester United matches on Sky TV at their Cheshire farmhouse.

He also gave the elderly couple medical help, including repeat prescriptions on an ad hoc basis between 1982 and 2012, even though they had their own GP. In return he was paid in prime cuts of beef.

However, Dr Bentley fell out with the family after Mr Sutcliffe died, aged 90, in January 2016.

Five days after the subsequent death of 84-year-old Mrs Sutcliffe, in November 2017, he sent the bill.

Daughter Margaret Sutcliffe said: ‘I asked him for help when my father was in hospital. I didn’t expect an invoice, I expected him as a friend.’

Yesterday, Dr Bentley was cleared of serious professional misconduct.

Laura Paul, who chaired the General Medical Council panel in Manchester, said: ‘Dr Bentley’s invoice was insensitive and ill-timed but it was a one-off incident in a previously long and unblemished career.’

She said he had expressed ‘genuine and heartfelt remorse’ and was no longer seeking payment.

Dr Bentley has retired after working for the Warrington Clinical Commissioning Group.