THOMAS ELRICK – the former senior manager at the NHS Harrow Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – has been sentenced to three years and eight months’ imprisonment following a hearing at Southwark Crown Court. Elrick had pleaded guilty to a charge of Fraud by Abuse of Position at Willesden Magistrates’ Court earlier this year.
The weight of evidence gathered by the investigation team of Clive Wyke and Sonia Benjamin, ably supported by Mark Howard and Richard Tettey, left Elrick with little choice other than to admit his guilt at the earliest opportunity.
Elrick stated that he knew what he was doing was dishonest and that he committed the fraud purely for financial gain. Fraud had become an addiction for him. He had attempted to cover up his fraudulent activities by sending an e-mail to the CCG using the address of his deceased wife who had died back in 2012, eight years prior to the e-mail being sent.
Clive Wyke observed: “Thomas Elrick held a position of trust within the NHS and a budget that allowed him to conduct this calculated fraud. Elrick wanted extra cash to fund to fund a lifestyle of expensive holidays and shopping, which he and his husband couldn’t afford. Not only did Elrick steal money from the NHS, which would otherwise have been used to fund care in the Harrow area, but he also used the names of family members and friends to facilitate the fraud, including using the name of his deceased wife.”
The fraud came to light when a colleague at Harrow CCG, where Elrick had been employed between April 2017 and December 2020 as the assistant managing director for planned and unscheduled care, queried invoices from a company named Tree of Andre Therapy Services Limited.
Due to the unusual company name, checks were then carried out. Searches could not find any website for Tree of Andre Therapy Services Limited. There was no trace of the company being registered on the Care Quality Commission website and the company was shown as dormant on Companies House records.
In his role at the CCG, Elrick managed a team of staff and had a budget responsibility. He had authority and approval to sign off invoices up to the value of £50,000. Between August 2018 and December 2020, he authorised and approved invoices submitted by Tree of Andre Therapy Services Limited for payment to Harrow CCG totalling £564,484.80. These were paid into a bank account registered to himself. He was the sole approver for all invoices submitted. However, no services were delivered and no work conducted for the CCG by that company.
The investigation process established that Tree of Andre Therapy Services Limited was registered to an address in Scotland, which would be too far away to provide services for Harrow CCG. Further investigation unearthed the details of another company also registered at the same address, this time called Vesuvius Business Management Limited. Vesuvius Business Management Limited is the umbrella company used by Elrick to channel his NHS salary of £472 per day.
In an attempt to cover up the fraud, Elrick had sent an e-mail (purporting to be from Tree of Andre Therapy Services Limited) in June 2020 to NHS Harrow CCG providing anonymised patient details where care was shown to have been provided, as well as the GP practices concerned. The e-mail was sent from the e-mail address of Elrick’s deceased wife.
Arrest and interview
In November 2021, Elrick was arrested at his home in Scotland. When interviewed by NHS Counter Fraud Authority investigators, he confirmed that Tree of Andre Therapy Services Limited was a ‘ghost’ company he had set up some months after he began his contract with Harrow CCG. He had registered the company online in the name of family members who had absolutely no knowledge of the fraud.
Elrick confirmed that he had set up this company to facilitate the fraud and that no services were ever provided by it. He confirmed the payments made by Harrow CCG were made into his own bank account.
Sentencing Elrick, Judge Vanessa Francis said: “You have worked in the NHS all your life. You are clearly someone who cares deeply about helping others and yet you used the system to systematically defraud the local authority who had employed you to the tune, in total, of over £565,000.”
Judge Francis continued: “For an NHS department already in deficit, what you did was take away the opportunity for people to be treated, helped and derive what they needed. In practical terms, this meant that the vulnerable people who needed care did not receive as much care as they needed. You are responsible for that. You abused the position of responsibility that you were given and in a relatively planned and sophisticated way.”
Deliberate and calculated attack
Richard Rippin, head of operations at the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, stated: “We are delighted with the sentence. I commend the work undertaken by our own investigators and the Crown Prosecution Service who brought this case to court. This was a deliberate and calculated attack on the NHS with the sole purpose of using money originally intended for patient care to live a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the taxpayer.“
Rippin concluded: “There is a counter fraud response working across the NHS to identify and pursue offenders like Elrick and protect those funds needed for patient care. Work now continues to recover the monies taken and return them to the NHS in Harrow.”
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