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Moonlighting night nurse conned £3k in sick pay

7 November 2007

A cheating nurse pocketed £3,000 in sick pay while continuing to work.

Katherine Clark claimed that back trouble meant she was unable to do her job at an NHS24 call centre.

But the 35-year-old moonlighted for a freelance nursing agency, doing night shifts at two Fife hospitals.

Her scam fell apart when she was recognised during one of the shifts by a colleague whose wife knew she was on sick leave.

Yesterday, Clark was sentenced to 135 hours community service and now faces being struck off the nursing register by watchdogs.

Prosecutor Siobhan Monks told Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court Clark had been off work as an NHS 24 nurse adviser between October 31 and December 21, last year.

Confessed

During that time, Clark worked night shifts at Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline, and the Victoria hospital in Kirkcaldy.

Ms Monks said "Her job with NHS 24 involved sitting at a telephone and answering calls and was not physical work in any way.

She was on various occasions during her time on sick leave from NHS 24, carrying out shifts as what is known as a bank nurse.

Bank nurses can be required to cover a full range of nursing duties, such as moving trolleys."

When interviewed by NHS Counter Fraud Services Investigators, Clark said she suffered from sciatica but confessed to her fraud.

She said she had been under "severe financial stress" after her marriage broke down and said she would be willing to pay back the money.

Chris Dickson, defending, said first offender Clark split from her husband in September last year.

He said: "She deeply regrets her actions. At the time, she was in serious financial difficulty and also suffering from stress."

Her marriage had broken down when she discovered her husband was having an affair.

He moved out, leaving her to look after their two children, aged 13 and nine, and pay all the household bills.

Mr Dickson said Mrs Clark, whose take-home pay was £1,600 had made a serious "error of judgement" in continuing to work while getting sick pay.

He said: "She immediately accepted her guilt.

"The matter has been referred to The Nursing and Midwifery Council to see if she should be removed from the register.

"There has never been any question mark over her clinical competence or ability to care for patients. She has entered into an arrangement to repay all the monies and she has paid £700 to date.

"Until this offence, she had an unblemished nursing record.

"She feels she has a lot to offer and would be devastated if she could not practise as a nurse. This was a one-off offence."

Sheriff Graeme Warner told Clark, of Kirkcaldy, it was "a serious matter".

Reduce

But because of her guilty plea, he would reduce her sentence by a third to one of 135 hours' community service.

Counter Fraud Services spokeswoman Maggie Worsfold said: "This sentence demonstrates that fraud against the NHS will not be tolerated.

"Health professionals must act with the highest integrity and honesty."

The CFS last night said another female nurse was due to appear in court later this year, also charged with working while off sick.

All text and photography courtesy of Daily Record