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Nurses gets prison sentence for agency work while claiming sickness

  • 8 Comments

A nurse who did agency work while off sick from her main job at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Vivian Coker was found to have defrauded the trust of more than £32,000, after she worked for two nursing agencies while signed off sick from her substantive role on the neurosurgical ward at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.

“Cases such as this are rare, and our staff provide first-rate care for the communities we serve”

Trust spokesman

The 53-year-old was found guilty of two counts of fraud by false misrepresentation and jailed for 16 months last week following an investigation led by the trust’s counter fraud team.

The investigation revealed Ms Coker, from Camberwell in London, had worked for the Pulse and Zentar agencies while signed off sick from August 2014 to May 2016, defrauding the trust of £32,745.

The recruitment agencies, Home Office and police assisted local counter fraud specialists with the case, according to the NHS Counter Fraud Authority.

Matrons on the ward in question were also involved in assisting with enquiries, the body added.

After a disciplinary hearing in August 2016, Ms Coker was dismissed for gross misconduct by the trust for working while off sick. The case was also referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

She went on to be questioned by the police and was charged with fraud, initially pleading not guilty to all counts. At a hearing at Kingston Crown Court on 13 July, she pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by misrepresentation.

In passing sentence, judge Hunter said Ms Coker had caused harm by stealing from a cash-strapped health service.

“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,” he said.

“It is in all our interests that the perpetrators are identified and prosecuted”

Richard Hampton

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it was right that action was taken against fraudsters but stressed such cases were rare.

“We take fraud extremely seriously, and our counter fraud team thoroughly investigate any evidence of wrongdoing or foul play,” said a trust spokeswoman.

“Cases such as this are rare, and our staff provide first-rate care for the communities we serve,” she said. “However, it is right and proper that the NHS acts quickly and decisively when cases of fraud such as this are detected.”

Richard Hampton, head of intelligence and fraud prevention at the authority, said: “The nursing community is a vital ally in the fight against NHS fraud. If you spot something that doesn’t seem quite right and could be a fraud, please do report it to our reporting line 0800 028 4060 or online.

“We believe working whilst sick fraud is still under-reported, and it is in all our interests that the perpetrators are identified and prosecuted,” he told Nursing Times.

 

  • 8 Comments

Readers' comments (8)

  • What a shame , spoiling the reputation of Nurse. Very disappointed. What a way to be struck off from having a better future.

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  • If Nurses were paid a decent salary they would not need to resort to this.
    Even though the nurse new she was doing wrong.

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  • I agree should now better but was she given this sentence because she was a nurse ,loads of people take advantage of nhs and use their money ,what happens the them nothing ,be fair too ,people on social security work not very many get jail just a warning ,they rob system even members of government have robbed the system how many of them got jail ,

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  • Emily Montgomery

    It is absolutely right that this nurse was prosecuted, it is theft, and sends a strong message that it will not be tolerated. Well done to her colleagues and Trust for speaking out, which must have been very difficult, but this money could have employed another nurse.
    The majority of nurses are honest and hard working, those that cast a shadow on this must be managed robustly to protect the rest of us and our reputation and professionalism.

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  • Although I agree,what I mean why ,should others get away with it.everyone should have same sentence even mp s

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  • If only nurses are getting enough pay. She might not have done this.

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  • Jumall

    I have seen this behaviour in nurses here in Canada, but haven’t been aware of it while off sick for a long oeriod of time. Here the nurses work two twelve hours days followed by two twelve hour nights, then five days off.Several nurses work during their five days off and then return to their full time job exhausted and need one or two sick days to recover. So, not directly calling in sixk at one location to work at another ( although I do see it occasionally) but sick leave is being abused. And nurses are well paid here-it is simply greed.

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  • Fraud is fraud and she should have thought of the risks she was taking. Any prison sentence will result in her being struck off. Nurses need to be aware that even a speeding offence with prosecution puts them at risk with the NMC, harsh but true.

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