Following a locally-led fraud investigation supported by NHS Protect, a temporary senior commissioner who defrauded the NHS Bromley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) of nearly £145,000 has been jailed for two years and three months following a hearing at Croydon Crown Court on Thursday 13 October.
Noel Morrow of Rivermead, East Molesey in Surrey was convicted of Fraud by Abuse of Position, contrary to Section 3 of the Fraud Act 2006. The sentencing Judge took account of the fact that Morrow has already paid back £93,681 to his former employer: money which can now be spent on treating NHS patients.
Local Counter Fraud Specialist (LCFS) Melanie Alflatt, the lead investigator, said: “We’re pleased to reach a positive conclusion to this investigation, which benefited from close work with the Clinical Commissioning Group as well as the national level support of NHS Protect and its specialist financial investigations team. It demonstrates to others who might try to defraud the NHS that they’re likely to be caught and face severe consequences for their actions.”
47 year-old Morrow, who was employed at Bromley CCG from June 2012 to April 2014, was contracted via an agency, namely Timothy James Consulting (which played no part in his crimes). As a senior commissioner, Morrow was responsible for the approval and management of funding for mental health ‘cost per case’ care packages for those patients with learning difficulties.
The investigation established that all of the invoices from Choice and Independence Care Solutions Ltd and Blue Gale Ltd were for services that were never delivered, and that £144,986.60 in payments from Bromley CCG were paid into a bank account actually owned by Morrow.
Monthly financial reporting controls
The investigation began after Bromley CCG identified a potential fraud through its monthly financial reporting controls and notified the LCFS of a concern about Morrow on 6 May 2014 in respect of invoices for its Mental Health and Learning Disability Services. The Finance Department had spotted a suspicious invoice from Choice and Independence Care Solutions Ltd and conducted further investigations, establishing that the company was registered to Morrow’s home address and a former address. The invoice was waiting for payment, and yet related to a patient whom Morrow had previously advised them was already discharged (and therefore not incurring these costs).
The investigation uncovered links between Morrow and a second company, Blue Gale Ltd, that was also invoicing the CCG for delivery of care packages. Morrow had a sign-off limit of £10,000. All of the invoices from these two companies were just under that amount, so Morrow could authorise them himself.
A spokesperson for the CCG confirmed: “Morrow was arrested and charged as soon as sufficient evidence was available. Advised by the LCFS, we implemented further controls to prevent such frauds happening in the future.”
NHS Protect’s financial investigation team members were contacted by the LCFS to conduct a money laundering investigation. They found that all of the money obtained through fraudulent means had been used by the defendant to fund a comfortable lifestyle.
Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, commented: “NHS Protect tackles fraud without fear or favour and at whatever level it occurs. In this case a senior commissioner, no less, used his position of power and trust to exploit a vulnerable patient group and divert money meant for their care into his own pocket. Thankfully, we’ve recovered £93,000 of that money. This is the second major recovery of defrauded NHS money in the last week, showing what can be achieved when local and national NHS bodies work together to tackle the issue.”