Former NHS CEO convicted of £11,000 fraud, but avoids jail term

NHS England’s former national lead for equality, Paula Vasco-Knight, and her husband, Stephen, have been found guilty of fraud, but received suspended sentences at Exeter Crown Court.

While CEO of Torbay and South Devon NHS FT, Vasco-Knight admitted paying her husband’s graphic design business £11,000 for work on a publication which never existed. Notionally, he was being ‘paid’ to produce a document about leadership for NHS CEOs.

The couple pleaded guilty at the same court on 26 January, following a fraud investigation by NHS Protect. She has been given a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, plus 250 hours of unpaid work. Her husband was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, plus 150 hours of unpaid work.

NHS Protect noted that after the couple found themselves under investigation, the Vasco-Knights tried to retrospectively manufacture a document to justify the payment of the invoice. Entitled ‘Transform’, they presented it in March 2015 at an interview under caution with investigators.

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

Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, said: “Paula and Stephen Vasco-Knight defrauded the NHS of money that is meant for the care of patients and which came from the public purse. The vast majority of those working in the NHS are people of the utmost integrity, who will feel extremely let down by these crimes.

“NHS Protect will continue to follow up on every suspicion of fraud reported to us. We will investigate and prosecute wherever appropriate so that offenders can be brought to justice.”

NHS Protect added that proceedings will commence to recover the funds lost to the NHS.

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