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Nurse jailed over £10,000 work fraud and forged reference

A senior band seven nurse at Craigavon Area Hospital in Northern Ireland managed to claim over £10,000 for duplicate shifts or shifts she had not worked, using her senior position to facilitate the fraud; junior nurses used the trust’s whistleblowing service to raise concerns.

Cherith Douglas was suspended from the position in May 2017, however shortly afterwards she resigned and took up a new position as a care home manager at a nursing home in Lisburn. Douglas provided a fake reference which referred to her in “glowing terms” in order to get the £41,000 job. Douglas was fired in August 2017 after the employers found out about the fraud inquiry through a circular email sent to all local healthcare providers.

Douglas was sentenced to 7 months in prison with a further 7 months on license for the 12 fraud offences. For the separate offence of obtaining employment in a private nursing home using forged references, she received a further 9 months of imprisonment.

"The offences committed by this senior nurse show a blatant disregard for the Health Service and the public purse. Fraud in the Northern Ireland Health Service will not be tolerated and I welcome this judgement as it sends a clear message to anyone contemplating fraudulent activity within the Health Service.“

Donna Scott, Assistant Director of Counter Fraud Services, Business Services Organisation

Ahead of the anticipated pressure on health and social care services this winter in addition to the ongoing pandemic, there have been some calls for expediting the recruitment process within the nursing industry to allow retired professionals to re-join the service quicker. In Ireland, a nursing chief and Stormont committee chair has called for “barriers” to be removed, following concerns around vetting and administration timeframes.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Department of Health acknowledged that delays in pre-employment checks happen most commonly in relations to difficulties obtaining references, but that: “given the nature of Health & Social Care work it is essential that these checks are carried out correctly and signed off before appointments are made.”

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