A 63-year-old former practice manager was yesterday (4 April) sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, at Swansea Crown Court, after pleading guilty to defrauding her practice and the NHS Pension Authority.
The former practice manager at Castle Surgery in Neath, Wales, Julie Ann Stevenson, had worked as a practice manager for over 25 years, initially in Pontardawe, and then was employed as a part time operations manager for the Amman Tawe Partnership in 2014. She started working for Castle Surgery as its practice manager in April 2016.
The matter was reported to the NHS Counter Fraud officers after a meeting on 24 September 2018 during which Ms Stevenson informed the practice partners that they had insufficient funds to pay the staff’s wages the following month.
That investigation found that between 1 April 2016 and 27 October 2018, Ms Stevenson had made unauthorised overtime claims to the value of £18,506.30, which was around 20-30 hours per month.
The Counter Fraud Authority (CFA) said she did this by ‘manipulating and circumventing financial data’ she had entered into the practice’s payroll system, and amended her wages to add the overtime figures, which she made pensionable.
‘At no point did she seek authorisation for the alleged overtime she worked, whether by the claim procedure or otherwise, in according with the practices’ overtime policy,’ said a statement by the CFA.
‘She had also increased her salary on a monthly basis, with the first occasion being identified as April 2016.’
Ms Stevenson pleaded guilty to the offence of fraud by abuse of position.
Judge Geraint Walters, who presided over the case, said the action was a ‘significant fall from grace’ for Ms Stevenson from a position of trust.
The CFA said Ms Stevenson repaid the full amount to the NHS Pensions Authority, totalling £43,968.66. This included an overpayment of pension worth £7,754.64 and a lump sum benefit payment which she was not entitled to, worth £36,213.98.
She also paid the practice back for the unauthorised overtime claims and was ordered to pay the investigation, prosecution and court costs.
It comes after it was estimated in 2019 that the NHS could be losing around £1.29bn every year due to economic crime, with £88m of that from general practice.