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Two nurses sentenced for defrauding NHS

Two nurses have been sentenced after admitting defrauding the NHS in separate incidents that saw trusts in England lose a total of around £80,000


Picture: Alamy

Two nurses have admitted defrauding the NHS in separate incidents that saw trusts in England lose a total of around £80,000.

London nurse Vivian Coker pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation for claiming sick leave from her NHS job while working for nursing agencies.

In a separate case, auxiliary nurse Harbans Dhaliwal received a suspended sentence for submitting false timesheets for almost £50,000 in unearned wages.

The NHS Counter Fraud Authority, which investigates fraud in the health service, said such dishonesty lets down dedicated, hard-working nurses and is taken extremely seriously.

Sick leave

Ms Coker, 53, was employed as a nurse on a neurological ward at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust at the time of the offences. Between August 2014 and May 2016 she was found to have worked for two nursing agencies, Pulse and Zentar, while on sick leave from her NHS job.

On Friday 13 July Ms Coker was sentenced to 16 months in prison for defrauding St George’s of £32,745. She was not ordered to pay compensation or costs.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Michael Hunter said: ‘The offences involved a long period of stealing from the NHS knowing the NHS was short of funds and knowing that when money was taken innocent people would suffer.’

Investigation

A trust spokesperson said it took cases of fraud extremely seriously. ‘Cases such as this are rare, and our staff provide first-rate care for the communities we serve. However, it is right and proper that the NHS acts quickly and decisively when cases of fraud such as this are detected,’ the spokesperson said.

The NHS Counter Fraud Authority said the incident was uncovered following an investigation by the trust’s internal counter fraud team with the aid of the nursing agencies, the Home Office and the police.

False timesheets

Auxiliary nurse Ms Dhaliwal was sentenced to 24 months in prison suspended for 12 months after pleading guilty to fraud by false representation.

Ms Dhaliwal, 54, was found to have submitted timesheets claiming she had worked 230 shifts between April 2014 and December 2015 when she had in fact worked ten.

The timesheets resulted in the George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton paying Ms Dhaliwal nearly £50,000 in unearned wages.

In sentencing Ms Dhaliwal, also on 13 July, Ms Justice Sylvia de Bertodano described the matter as a ‘very serious offence’.

‘That money came from the NHS, which is an institution of which British people are rightly proud and very protective,’ she said.

‘It is under threat through spending crises, so when money is stolen from it, it is a very serious offence indeed.’

Let down

A George Eliot Hospital spokesperson said: ‘We are saddened that the behaviour of one individual has let down the honest and hard-working members of staff at this hospital and we welcome the criminal proceedings taken.’

The spokesperson said George Eliot had changed its rostering system since the incident and was in the process of recovering the wages and the costs of the investigation.

In response to the two sentencings, NHS Counter Fraud Authority head of intelligence and fraud prevention Richard Hampton said the dishonesty of the two women had let down nurses across the NHS.

‘We recognise that the vast majority of NHS nurses are honest, dedicated and hard-working,’ he said.

‘The two nurses sentenced for defrauding the NHS in the last few days, thanks to locally led investigations, have let down their fellow professionals as well as NHS patients.’

Mr Hampton urged nurses to report any suspicions of fraud.

Zentar UK managing director Fahim Modak said the agency was committed to working in a compliant and transparent manner and was pleased to support the investigation.

Mr Modak also said Zentar had now changed its practices to help prevent future incidents.

‘We want to ensure that all NHS trusts and private facilities are protected from acts like this, and have implemented strict practices to prevent situations like this in the future,’ he said.

A spokesperson for Pulse said they had cooperated fully with the investigation and were: ‘deeply disappointed any nurse would provide misleading information to the NHS or to their agency’.


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