An Isle of Wight NHS pharmacist has been suspended after he pocketed £3,500 of taxpayers' money claiming to be at work - when he was actually on a ferry.

Abbas Samnani left his NHS hospital job early on 30 occasions to catch a ferry back to the mainland but falsified his timesheets to make it look like he worked longer than he did.

Puzzled medics at St Mary's Hospital in Newport looked for the 40-year-old around the wards for 'urgent' work but couldn't find him, a tribunal heard.

Samnani, a locum pharmacist, worked on the island hospital from Monday to Thursday in 2018 and 2019.

The tribunal heard he left early on Thursdays to get the Wightlink ferry to the mainland in order to travel home for the weekend to Stockport, Greater Manchester, which is 250 miles away.

He left early and falsified his timesheets 30 times in the 39 weeks he worked at St Mary's.

He overclaimed £3,440 - from the public purse - which he was not entitled to.

The Pharmacy Regulation Tribunal heard colleagues became suspicious of his unusual timesheets as they looked for him without success.

On one occasion, Samnani left work at 9.30am but claimed he was still there until 1pm.

He was caught after the NHS contracted a counter-fraud specialist, and Samnani confessed 'he should not have claimed for these hours, as he was either on a ferry crossing or on the way to the ferry port'.

Samnani, a pharmacist of nine years, claimed he went above and beyond his duty and worked long hours which made up for it - even claiming he was available on WhatsApp if needed.

But he accepted making mistakes and paid back the money in full.

He said: "I felt as I have spent more time there during the week I was entitled and if I left earlier on my last day of the week to catch earlier ferry once I have done my work it was justified.

"This is completely wrong and I needed to communicate this with management and have a agreeable plan in place.

"I started taking the ferries earlier, when I felt I have done the hours and signed the timesheets for last day of the week incorrectly.

"I must stress my motivation to finish early was only to get back home to help relieve my father of his duties caring for my mother when I was not working."

He also said "it became guesswork" and admitting putting down hours that added up to 37.5 hours per week regardless of whether he actually worked them.

Samnani left the hospital without his services for a total of around 65 hours, it was heard.

The panel suspended him for nine months.

The panel said: "We consider that Samnani's actions of falsifying timesheets on 30 occasions (30 weeks out of 39 weeks), and overclaiming £3,440.30 from the NHS (and thus the public purse) were serious.

"This was not an isolated incident, but repeated dishonesty involving defrauding the NHS.

"His acceptance of his dishonesty has only come about very recently.

"We consider that he always knew that what he was doing was dishonest.

"If he really believed that he was doing nothing wrong because he had worked sufficient hours each week, then why did he not tell his manager that he would be leaving early on a Thursday and would be completing his timesheet with a later time to compensate for the extra hours he had worked?"