A woman has been sentenced to five months in prison for attempting to defraud the NHS of more than £2.3 million in compensation.
Browne Jacobson, instructed by NHS Resolution on behalf of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton, established that Lesley Elder, from Poole, lied about the extent of her injuries and disabilities following surgery in 2010.
Despite claims of severe and unremitting pain, requiring aids for movement, the inability to work or travel, and a need for care and assistance during the day and night, surveillance was obtained in 2016 in which Elder was observed walking without any mobility aids, including trips to the shops with her daughter and to the supermarket.
Further evidence obtained showed her in Ibiza on a hen party in 2012 for one of her daughters.
Elder sought to recover more than £2.3 million, and was ultimately awarded £120,012 by a court in 2016 following the submission of surveillance evidence.
But the judge concluded her claim was dishonest to the criminal standard, stating: “I have been forced to the conclusion that important elements of this case represented a determined attempt by the claimant to extract several million pounds from the National Health Service by way of a claim that, although founded on a proper and indeed unanswerable complaint, nevertheless was inflated beyond all reason.”
“It was principally supported by the claimant’s evidence that was, in part, dishonest, and in part, grossly exaggerated. I find it especially troubling that the claimant sought to suppress the surveillance evidence and that even after disclosure of the same, the claim, unaltered, proceeded to a full trial. Absent the surveillance evidence, a terrible injustice would have been done to the National Health Service.”
On sentencing, Judge Walden-Smith described this case as “a very serious contempt of court”, noting that several false statements had been made. Elder had lied within those statements, to medical experts and when giving evidence in court.
Judge Walden-Smith considered that the contempt was made more serious by the extent of the exaggeration, with Elder attempting to defraud the NHS of a sum in excess of £2 million.
Helen Vernon, chief executive at NHS Resolution, said of the case: “Fraudulent claims for compensation against the NHS take money away from patient care. We are pleased that the seriousness of this case, has been recognised by the courts. NHS Resolution is committed to compensating genuine claimants fairly but this case highlights the likely consequences for anyone who tries to pursue a dishonest or exaggerated claim.”
A spokesman for George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust said: “Fraud against the NHS is taken extremely seriously by the trust and will not be tolerated. We welcome the contempt of court proceedings taken and the decision of the court.”
“Had the surveillance materials not come to light, Ms Elder could have claimed millions of pounds in damages which she was not entitled to, and which would have deprived the NHS of valuable resources.”
“We will continue to work with our partners in the police and NHS Resolution to clamp down on fraud wherever we see it.”