• Paula Vasco-Knight and husband must repay £11,000 to the NHS
  • Confiscation order hearing follows asset investigation by NHS accountants
  • The former trust chief executive admitted fraud in 2017

A former hospital chief executive has been ordered to repay around £11,000 to the NHS or go to prison.

Paula Vasco-Knight, who led Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust until her resignation in 2014 following an employment tribunal, admitted fraud at Exeter Crown Court last January alongside her husband. They were today ordered to make the repayment or be jailed for six weeks.

Ms Vasco-Knight, who was also NHS England’s equality and diversity lead, paid her husband Stephen’s design company to carry out non-existent work for which he then billed the NHS.

The couple have been ordered to repay the £11,072, plus £2,500 costs, within three months or serve six weeks each in prison.

The repayment order was made at Exeter Crown Court after a financial investigation by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority into the couple’s assets.

Last year, Ms Vasco-Knight was given an 18 month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 250 hours community service.

She resigned as Torbay and South Devon chief executive after an employment tribunal found she had victimised whistleblowers who accused her of nepotism.

Nevertheless, she passed the Care Quality Commission’s fit and proper person test and was acting chief executive at St George’s University Hospitals FT when the fraud accusations were made.

The couple changed their pleas to guilty during the trial last year.

Neither were present for the hearing today but their barrister Lloyd Morgan appeared by video link from Liverpool Crown Court and agreed the confiscation order.

During the trial, the court heard how Ms Vasco-Knight diverted money she was paid as a bursary by the NHS Leadership Academy to her husband and pushed through false invoices to ensure he got paid.

He ran a graphic design business called Thinking Caps from their home at the time in Totnes.

Ms Vasco-Knight was awarded a CBE in the 2014, which has since been taken away, and paid £197,000 for her work at the trust and her one day a week NHS England role.

Mr Vasco-Knight will have to cash in £12,302.02 from a pension policy with the Clerical and Medical Insurance company to raise his share of the compensation.