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Nurse turned hospital trust chief executive pleads guilty to fraud

An ex-hospital trust chief executive with a nursing background has pleaded guilty to fraud against the NHS.
Paula_Vasco_Knight-NC_0244.jpg

An ex-hospital trust chief executive with a nursing background has pleaded guilty to fraud against the NHS.

Paula Vasco-Knight, a former chief executive of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, and her husband Stephen Vasco-Knight both pleaded guilty to fraud against the NHS at Exeter Crown Court.

The case was investigated by national counter-fraud body NHS Protect, who found that in December 2013 Dr Vasco-Knight had authorised an 11,000 payment to her husbands graphic design business for work on a document about NHS leadership that was never carried out.

Dr Vasco-Knight, who was appointed NHS Englands national lead for equality in 2012, was awarded a CBE in 2014 for services to

An ex-hospital trust chief executive with a nursing background has pleaded guilty to fraud against the NHS.


Paula Vasco-Knight was employed as chief executive of South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and
as national lead for equality at NHS England when the offence took place. Picture: Nathan Clarke

Paula Vasco-Knight, a former chief executive of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, and her husband Stephen Vasco-Knight both pleaded guilty to fraud against the NHS at Exeter Crown Court.

The case was investigated by national counter-fraud body NHS Protect, who found that in December 2013 Dr Vasco-Knight had authorised an £11,000 payment to her husband’s graphic design business for work on a document about NHS leadership that was never carried out.

Dr Vasco-Knight, who was appointed NHS England’s national lead for equality in 2012, was awarded a CBE in 2014 for services to the NHS.

She pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by abuse of position at Exeter Crown Court on 26 January. Her husband pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by false representation after submitting an invoice for work that was not undertaken.

Strongest sanctions 

According to NHS Protect, after the couple found themselves under investigation they retrospectively tried to manufacture a document called Transform, to justify the payment of the invoice, and presented it to investigators in March 2015.

NHS Protect investigators established that the document could not possibly have been produced in November 2013 as stated, as it contained large passages of text copied straight from a King’s Fund document that wasn’t published until November 2014.                               

Dr Vasco-Knight, who qualified as a nurse in the 1980s and has held a number of managerial positions in the NHS, was employed as chief executive of South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and as national lead for equality at NHS England when the offence took place.

Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect said: ‘Between them, Paula and Stephen Vasco-Knight defrauded over £11,000 of NHS money that was sorely needed for its intended purposes.

‘NHS Protect, without fear or favour, will continue to follow up on every suspicion of fraud reported to us. We will investigate and prosecute wherever appropriate, and press for the strongest sanctions.’

Recorder Don Tait adjourned sentencing until March.


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