FORMER NATIONAL Health Service (NHS) director of finance Stephen Day has been sentenced to 11 years and five months behind bars following his conviction for a series of serious fraud offences, which included significant offences against the NHS. The National Health Service Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) investigated the case in partnership with Greater Manchester Police, duly discovering that Day was fraudulently occupying three full-time senior NHS positions at once.
Aged 51 and a resident of Queich Mill in Blairgowrie, Day obtained the positions through two employment agencies – namely Axon Resourcing Limited and Hays Specialist Recruitment Limited – both of whom were unaware of his deception. From November 2012 to January 2013, Day simultaneously held full-time interim director of finance or equivalent posts with the Merseyside Commissioning Support Unit, the South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula Clinical Commissioning Group and the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership Trust. He failed to disclose his employment status to all three organisations.
Day worked as a full-time director of finance for both the Merseyside Commissioning Support Unit and the Seisdon Peninsula Clinical Commissioning Group between 1 November 2012 and 14 January 2013. This enabled him to fraudulently earn a combined salary of £2,000 per day. During this period, in December 2012 he accepted a third simultaneous NHS director of finance position with the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership Trust. The total loss to the NHS amounted to £88,000.
What started in May 2013 as a locally-led NHS investigation was tasked to the NHSCFA’s National Investigation Service in September of that year. Its investigators uncovered that Day had spared no effort to maintain the illusion of carrying out his multiple responsibilities. To cover his tracks, he would contact his NHS employers with a range of excuses for his numerous absences, from needing to “work from home” through to having to receive “cancer treatment”. On one occasion, when he needed to attend an NHS job interview in London, Day said that his father had passed away.
On top of his NHS posts, Day had extensive private business interests to run. He declined to use NHS mobile phones and laptops and was only available through the personal assistant at his private business.
Two-day handover process
At the start of his employment at the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership Trust, he commenced a two-day handover with the outgoing director of finance. Day was still employed at the South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula Clinical Commissioning Group and, unbeknown to him, the outgoing director of finance at the Cheshire and Wirral Partnership Trust was taking up a new role overseeing all of the directors of finance in the Staffordshire area (including the role at the South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula Clinical Commissioning Group, which Day occupied).
This was the start of his undoing and it was quickly ascertained that Day had held the position of director of finance at the Merseyside Commissioning Support Unit and the post of director of finance at the South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula Clinical Commissioning Group at the same time for a period of circa nine weeks, with neither NHS organisation aware of the matter.
Interviewed under caution, Day tried to defend his criminal actions by saying that it didn’t stipulate in his contracts that he had to declare other employment.
The NHSCFA was assisted by Greater Manchester Police with the arrest of Stephen Day and subsequent property searches. Greater Manchester Police later launched its own investigation into Day after receiving four separate allegations against him which amounted to a total of over £1.3 million in suspected fraudulent activity.
Appearing at Leeds Crown Court, Day pleaded guilty to 12 charges of fraud and theft, including three counts relating to the NHS, but disputed the amounts he had stolen for the Greater Manchester Police investigation. Day was sentenced on all 12 counts, with all sentences to run consecutively. He is to serve a minimum of half of the sentence in prison, with the remainder on licence.
Exceptional investigative work
His Honour Judge Batiste commended the “exceptional police and investigative work” by “Detective Sergeant Stuary Donoghue of the Greater Manchester Police, Ben Evans, fraud investigations manager for the Greater Manchester Police and Mick Meade, senior fraud investigator at the NHSCFA.” The Judge also added: “This was an exceptionally complex case requiring much hard work which was conducted to a high standard.”
Richard Rippin, head of operations at the NHSCFA, said: “Stephen Day carried out a calculated fraud against the NHS. Any money lost to fraud affects the amount of resources the NHS has available for front line care. The money stolen by Day would have been enough to fund the annual salaries of three nurses. We are pleased that, through joint working with Greater Manchester Police, we were able to show the court the full extent of Day’s offending. The NHSCFA believes that multi-agency working such as this is the best way in which to stamp out fraud against the public sector.”
Detective Sergeant Donohue observed: “Day was a career criminal. He built his life on cheating and stealing. He was very meticulous in what he did and would often move money to and from so many accounts that it was difficult to distinguish the route it had taken. He did this to try and confuse us, but we never doubted that we, alongside the NHS investigators, would uncover the extent of his deceit and greed. Every step of the way he has lied and tried to find any way in which to avoid going to prison. He created numerous and deliberate delays to the prosecution, which the police service and the Crown Prosecution Service have tirelessly dealt with, and has been unwilling to fully accept his actions.”
He added: “I would like to thank the victims in this case for their unwavering patience over the last six years, and also reassure them that, although the investigation has closed, we’ll continue to work to try and recompense them and recoup some of the funds Day stole.”
Ben Reid of the Crown Prosecution Service commented: “Stephen Day was a financial consultant who was trusted by many to look after their money, but instead he took the money and spent it on holidays and houses for himself. He acted in a despicable manner when he stole from the taxpayers’ much-needed funding of the NHS, as well as the companies and individuals he tricked through romance frauds. The CPS worked closely with the police and the NHS investigators to evidence Day’s lies and we’re pleased that he has now been imprisoned. Hopefully, this will bring some comfort to his victims.”