A senior clinical commissioning group manager and a leading GP on its board defrauded the NHS of £153,600 set aside to treat patients over winter into the bank account of a company they controlled.
Lisa Hill, a senior commissioning manager at Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, and Dr Ian Walton admitted defrauding the NHS by raising a false invoice for GP training from a charity, on whose board they both sat.
Dr Walton and Ms Hill abused their positions and carried out “a gross breach of trust” by receiving money which they were never entitled to, the prosecutor said at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday.
Ms Hill was responsible in part for the CCG’s £70m mental health budget. Dr Walton, a GP with a national reputation for mental health excellence and his own practice in Tipton, was also a clinical lead on the CCG’s board.
Outside the NHS, the pair both legitimately ran doctor training courses. Both also sat on the board of mental health charity Primhe, which Dr Walton was chair of, and jointly ran Walton Hill Associates.
The court heard on Wednesday that none of these potential “conflicts of interest” were communicated to the CCG.
Ms Hill and Dr Walton will be sentenced on 20 December.
The prosecutor said the relationship running through the three organisations was “an unhealthy one”.
He said the fraud involved “lying in documents” to get money “they should never have obtained and was never meant for the purposes for which it was ultimately employed”.
The judge heard that although Dr Walton and Ms Hill dishonestly received the money by fabricating the invoice, they spent £57,000 of it successfully training 69 GPs.
A further £62,000 was found in the charity’s account and was said to have been “ringfenced” for future GP training, leaving £34,000 in “profit”.
In December 2012, Ms Hill, from Hagley near Stourbridge in the West Midlands, submitted a business case to the CCG for GP mental health training.
However, it had the CCG had already decided to divert the money into a “winter pressures” budget. CCG managers “never approved the funding” for GP training, but an invoice for £153,600 from the charity to the CCG was still raised in March 2013.
Mrs Hill submitted an invoice from the company, of which both she and Dr Walton were co-directors, to the charity, for the cost of delivering the training.
Both were arrested and then charged last year and pleaded guilty to a single count each of fraud in November.
Judge Paul Farrer QC said it was an “unusual” case because Dr Walton, of Stourbridge Road in Wombourne, and Ms Hill had not set out to make money.
Ms Hill lost her job at the CCG and has since been employed as a freelance training consultant by NHS trusts that are “fully aware” of the court case, her barrister said.
14 December 2016