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Former NHS England equality lead and husband guilty of fraud

The former National Lead for Equality at NHS England and her husband have pleaded guilty to fraud against the NHS at Exeter Crown Court yesterday.

Ms Paula Vasco-Knight, who was also CEO of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, authorised payment of £11,072 in December 2013 to the graphic design business owned by her husband, Stephen Vasco-Knight, for work that was never carried out.

The work was supposedly a document about leadership for NHS CEOs. She pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud by abuse of position.

Mr Vasco-Knight pleased guilty to one charge of Fraud by False Representation. He submitted the false invoice to South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in November 2013 and received payment for work that was never commissioned or undertaken.

The couple tried to create a document after they were under investigation to justify the invoice, presenting it at an interview under caution in March 2015.

Investigators with NHS Protect, who carried out the investigation, said they found it could not have been made in 2013 as it contained ‘large passages of text copied straight from a bona fide King’s Fund document that wasn’t published until November 2014’.

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.

‘NHS Protect, without fear or favour, 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.’

The sentencing will be on 10 March.

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