Former NHS England Equality Lead Paula Vasco-Knight CBE and husband plead guilty to fraud

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court

Paula Vasco-Knight (NHS England’s former National Lead for Equality, who was also CEO of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust) and her husband Stephen Vasco-Knight have both pleaded guilty at Exeter Crown Court to fraud against the NHS.

Following a thorough investigation process conducted by NHS Protect, the national counter-fraud body, Stephen Vasco-Knight pleaded guilty to one charge of Fraud by False Representation, contrary to Sections 1 and 2 of the Fraud Act 2006.

Paula Vasco-Knight pleaded guilty to one charge of Fraud by Abuse of Position, contrary to Sections 1 and 4 of the Fraud Act 2006.

Back in December 2013, Paula Vasco-Knight’s crime was to authorise an £11,072.00 payment to her husband’s graphic design business ‘Thinking Caps’ for work that was never carried out. Notionally, he was being ‘paid’ to produce a document about ‘Leadership’ for NHS CEOs.

His crime was submitting the false invoice for £11,072.00 to South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in November 2013, and then receiving the payment for work that was never commissioned, nor undertaken. He was assisted by his wife in submitting the invoice.

Presentation of ‘Transform’

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.

NHS Protect investigators established that the document couldn’t possibly 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.

As part of the investigation a number of laptops, mobile devices and PCs were obtained from South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and NHS England, and subsequently examined by NHS Protect’s computer forensics specialists.

Paula Vasco-Knight was employed as CEO of South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in August 2008. Her additional role as National Lead for Equality at NHS England began in 2012, when it was still known as the NHS Commissioning Board. Vasco-Knight enjoyed a high profile and was awarded a CBE for her work on equality and diversity in the NHS as part of the January 2014 New Year Honours List.

Commenting on the case, Sue Frith (managing director of NHS Protect) said: “Between them, Paula and Stephen Vasco-Knight defrauded over £11,000 of NHS money that was sorely needed for its intended purposes. Without fear or favour, NHS Protect will continue to follow up on every suspicion of fraud reported to us. We will investigate and prosecute wherever appropriate, and press for the strongest sanctions. We will not be making any further statements on this case until after sentencing takes place on Friday 10 March.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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