In the second case of its kind, Lesley Elder has been sentenced to five months in jail for attempting to defraud the NHS of in excess of £2.3m in compensation (Friday 5 April).
Browne Jacobson LLP, instructed by NHS Resolution on behalf of George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton, established that Ms Elder, from Poole, lied about the extent of her injuries and disabilities following surgery in 2010.
Ms Elder alleged that as a consequence of the admitted negligence she suffered severe and unremitting pain which was exacerbated by movement. She had to walk with the aid of a walking stick, using crutches on occasions and a wheelchair for longer trips. She also claimed that she had not been able to go on holiday since the surgery, save for a trip to Egypt in October 2015, that she was unable to work from 2013 onwards and that she needed care and assistance during the day and night.
However, surveillance was obtained in 2016 in which she was observed walking without any mobility aids, including trips to the shops with her daughter and to the supermarket. Further evidence obtained showed her in Ibiza on a hen party in 2012 for one of her daughters.
Ms Elder had sought to recover in excess of £2.3m, and was ultimately awarded £120,012 by the Court in 2016 following the submission of surveillance evidence. However, the judge concluded her claim was dishonest to the criminal standard stating:
“I have been forced to the conclusion that important elements of this case represented a determined attempt by the claimant to extract several million pounds from the National Health Service by way of a claim that, although founded on a proper and indeed unanswerable complaint, nevertheless was inflated beyond all reason. It was principally supported by the claimant’s evidence that was, in part, dishonest, and in part, grossly exaggerated. I find it especially troubling that the claimant sought to suppress the surveillance evidence and that even after disclosure of the same, the claim, unaltered, proceeded to a full trial. Absent the surveillance evidence, a terrible injustice would have been done to the National Health Service.”
On sentencing, Judge HHJ Walden-Smith described this case as “a very serious contempt of court,” noting that several false statements had been made. Ms Elder had lied within those statements, to medical experts and when giving evidence in court. HHJ Walden Smith considered that the contempt was made more serious by the extent of the exaggeration, with Ms Elder attempting to defraud the NHS of a sum in excess of £2m.”
Fraudulent claims for compensation against the NHS take money away from patient care. We are pleased that the seriousness of this case, has been recognised by the courts. NHS Resolution is committed to compensating genuine claimants fairly but this case highlights the likely consequences for anyone who tries to pursue a dishonest or exaggerated claim.Helen Vernon, Chief Executive at NHS Resolution
Fraud against the NHS is taken extremely seriously by the Trust and will not be tolerated. We welcome the Contempt of Court proceedings taken and the decision of the court. Had we not undertaken surveillance as part of the investigation, Ms Elder could have claimed millions of pounds in damages which she was not entitled to, and which would have deprived the NHS of valuable resources. We will continue to work with NHS Resolution to clamp down on fraud wherever we see it.A spokesman for George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust