• Paula Vasco-Knight faces three counts of fraud by abuse of position
  • No plea has yet been entered
  • Former chief executive’s trust believes charges relate to her former role as NHS England equalities lead

A hospital chief executive and former national equalities lead who left her job after a nepotism row has now been charged with fraud.

Paula Vasco-Knight was due to appear in Torquay Magistrates Court on Thursday morning on three counts of fraud by abuse of position.

The charges relate to a period between October 2012 and August 2013.

Stephen Vasco-Knight, 45, of the same address in Runcorn, Cheshire, was also due to appear on one count of fraud by false representation in November 2013.

Ms Vasco-Knight, 52, was appointed chief executive of Torbay and South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust in 2008 and national equalities lead for NHS England in April 2012. She resigned from the trust in May 2014 after being accused of nepotism.

In January 2014 NHS England announced that Mrs Vasco-Knight had left her post as national equalities lead after a damning verdict from an employment tribunal. NHS England denied her departure had anything to do with the tribunal.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Torbay and South Devon Healthcare Foundation Trust said the charges did not relate to her work in the South West.

A trust spokeswoman said: “We have now seen the charges against Ms Vasco-Knight. Whilst they reference South Devon Healthcare, as far as we are aware they do not relate to trust business. We understand that they relate to the national role held by Ms Vasco-Knight whilst she was chief executive with us. We are unable to comment further as legal proceedings are now underway, but will be able to do so once sub judice restrictions are lifted.”

Ms Vasco-Knight was suspended from her position as acting chief executive at St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust earlier this month.