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£300,000 NHS dialysis unit fraudsters jailed

Manager and contractors charged Epsom and St Helier Trust for bogus work

Mark Gould

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

An NHS manager, his partner and three contractors, who all helped defraud Epsom and St Helier Hospital NHS Trust of hundreds of thousands of pounds for work that was unnecessary or was never carried out, have been sentenced following a fraud investigation led by NHS Protect.

NHS Protect says the thefts, from Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, were "too extensive and complex to ever be precisely added up", but the total is estimated at around £300,000. The exact figure will be determined at a future confiscation hearing to get the money back.

Ringleader Alan Hodge 53, of Sutton, Surrey, was the trust’s Renal Technical Department Manager, in charge of maintaining dialysis equipment. Also involved were his partner, Lisa Green, 49, and three company owners Pierre Allen, 55, owner of Mains Contractors, Stephen Thompson, 47, owner of SJ Thompson Plumbing and Phillip Jones owner of TWS (Southern) Ltd to whom he awarded NHS contracts.

At a hearing in November - after a seven-week trial - Hodge, Allen and Thompson were found guilty of fraud by abuse of position while Green was found guilty of a money laundering offence. Jones was the only one to plead guilty, to Fraud by Abuse of Position, in May. Their crimes all related to Hodge’s award of work to the three contractors and resulting payments.

Hodge was responsible for maintaining the dialysis equipment at three sites run by the trust. He also visited patients’ homes to decide what modifications would be needed for them to receive home dialysis, and to procure the works required.

Attention focused on Hodge in 2013 after the trust suspended him for an unrelated disciplinary matter - for which he was later dismissed, in January 2014.

The manager of the renal department noticed that when Hodge was away, far fewer invoices were being presented for her to authorise in his work area. Expenditure from the renal technician’s non-pay budget dropped to less than half.

Further investigation established that he had been exploiting his position by engaging people he knew as contractors, ostensibly to carry out necessary work for the trust. However, some 266 invoices were raised in their name for work which was either not done at all, done far more frequently than was necessary, and/or was greatly overpriced.

Between 2009 and 2013, Mains Contractors was paid a total of £388,023.58 by the trust; between 2007 and 2013, S J Thompson Plumbing was paid a total of £118,045.69 and, between 2011 and 2013, TWS (Southern) Ltd was paid a total of £43,609.

Invoices submitted by these companies contained only a minimal description of the work done, perhaps in order to make it more difficult for the trust to audit the work.

The fraudsters lived in some style at the expense of the NHS: Hodge indulged in frequent Butlins holidays and maintained a large static caravan in Hastings. He and Pierre Allen of Mains Contractor spent over £15,000 on Chelsea Football Club tickets, while Allen’s 50th birthday party at Surrey golf club cost over £6,000.

Hodge had gained the full trust of his employer, and of the hospital’s renal charity, which at one point was persuaded to buy two second hand dialysis chairs from him for £2,995.

Sue Frith, Managing Director of NHS Protect, said: “Painstaking, diligent work by NHS Protect fraud investigators has once again put a stop to precious NHS money being diverted into private pockets. It is very sad when trusted staff with valuable technical skills, sorely needed by the NHS and its patients, turn to crime.

"The public rightly demands that NHS workers are people of integrity as well as technical ability. NHS Protect welcomes any tip-offs where fraud is suspected and wherever appropriate, it will be investigated and prosecuted. We support the strongest sanctions to deter others from defrauding the NHS.”

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