Tomkins/Dunlop Saints and Scroungers


Tomkins/Dunlop

Series looking at benefit fraud. The story of an NHS manager who managed to steal over 200,000 pounds of NHS money to fund her own business.


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Transcript


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Millions of pounds' worth of our taxes should be going to the most needy.

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Trouble is, people keep stealing it.

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Welcome to the world of Saints And Scroungers.

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Saints And Scroungers is all about busting benefit thieves

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who steal millions every year

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and the crack teams of investigators determined to scupper their scams.

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But we also shine the light on the saints,

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those committed to putting money into the pockets of people who deserve it

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and the people too proud to claim what is rightly theirs.

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Coming up in today's programme:

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The National Health Service manager who managed to steal

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over £200,000 worth of patients' money to fund her own business.

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It was very blatant, what she did, you know.

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There was no excuse whatsoever for the actions of this person.

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And the story of a man who needs a new kidney

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but faces a struggle to get the financial support he needs.

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I received a letter telling me quite clearly that there was nothing wrong with me

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and I had no incapability to work

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and I wasn't entitled, which came as a huge surprise,

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considering I was on the national kidney transplant list at this time.

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But first, the scandalous case of the NHS fraudster.

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The NHS is ours, we all pay for it and what it's there for

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is to look after the health of everyone in this country.

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But what it's not for is to pay for the running of your own personal business.

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Meet Louise Tomkins, a 49-year-old senior manager

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with the NHS.

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She's responsible for overseeing an annual budget of £55 million.

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This money makes the difference between life and death.

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Surely she wouldn't steal some of it for herself, would she?

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I found it really quite amazing

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that somebody that stole over £200,000 from the tax payer

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thought it was perfectly OK to then carry on working.

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Kevin Cane if head of the London and Southeast NHS counter fraud team.

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Theft within the NHS is a significant problem,

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so each trust has its own local fraud investigator

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for anything that looks suspicious.

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But for high-value frauds of £15,000 or more,

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regional teams like Kevin's get called in.

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And in 2008, he got a call about Louise Tomkins.

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When she first stepped into the fraud investigation team spotlight, what did you think?

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Initially, when you get an initial allegation,

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it came from the trust themselves because they identified the problem.

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You don't know the background of the people that you're dealing with.

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We're going to know that she's somebody in a senior position

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but she was at that level

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that nobody was going to check what she was doing.

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Louise Tomkins has worked in some of the busiest hospitals in the country.

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She's a director of operations and the buck stops with her.

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The director of operations role is

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one of the most important on the board.

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She would be right at the forefront of the management of resources

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and the delivery of services.

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Among her many tasks was managing staff,

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buying equipment and juggling budgets.

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It's a responsible job and it takes nerves of steel.

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She was very driven and quite intense,

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quite vocal in terms of getting things through.

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She wasn't a shrinking violet in that sense

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but we didn't quite appreciate what she was doing behind that veneer.

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So what was going on? Why was she brought to Kevin's attention?

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She was working, initially, at the Hammersmith Hospital.

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That merged with another hospital and they formed a bigger trust.

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Now, as a result of that,

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-all the managers had to reapply for their own positions again.

-Right.

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And Louise Tomkins was one of these managers

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but her job application was unsuccessful and she was replaced.

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After Miss Tomkins left the Imperial NHS Trust,

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her replacement was asked to undertake a review of the surgical department.

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Following that review,

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some discrepancies over invoices were identified.

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Those discrepancies would unravel to reveal a shocking secret,

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as Kevin's colleague Julietta Muhammad was about to find out.

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The new manager that came in,

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one of the things that came to her attention was an overspent budget

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for medical photography.

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This was alarming to her because they had an in-house medical photography department.

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So if the hospital had their own photography department,

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why were they paying someone else to do the work?

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She picked up the phone and made some enquiries.

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She spoke to the individual,

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who informed her that she was an employee of Louise Tomkins.

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But she wasn't an employee at the NHS.

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So if she was working for Tomkins but not the hospital,

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what on earth was going on?

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The new manager was amazed.

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Immediately, she did a referral to the London regional team

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and asked us to look into the matter.

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'I visited Imperial Hospital...

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'and during our search for invoices,

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'we discovered that Louise Tomkins had authorised several invoices.'

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These were payments for her private business.

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It looked like Louise Tomkins was invoicing for services

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that didn't exist

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and with that one phone call, the fraud team suspected

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they had a high level of fraud on their hands.

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But the more investigator Julietta Muhammad goes through invoices Tomkins has authorised,

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the more she finds suspicious signs.

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As you can see, it's a very simple invoice.

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Didn't have letterheads that could have been knocked up on the computer in five minutes.

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Julietta strongly suspects

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that these invoices are not from any genuine medical supplier.

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And if you tot up all the money paid out for them,

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it comes to thousands and thousands of pounds,

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so where has the money gone?

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Julietta begins calling the contractors named on them

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and is shocked as to what she finds out.

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Coming up later,

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how Tomkins nearly got away with stealing nearly £200,000

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of NHS money.

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And the shocking truth about where it went.

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What was the cheekiest one that you saw?

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I'll show you this one. This is a really cheeky one.

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Next it's farewell, fraudsters, and hello to the innocent people -

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our saints, those who are in genuine need of help

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but who are too proud to claim what's due to them

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and their saintly helpers who point them in the right direction.

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When things go badly wrong,

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it's comforting to know that in this country,

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we have a benefits system to act as a sort of safety net.

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Sadly, though, that system doesn't always work out as well as it should do

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and it's at times like that

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that it's the strength of your friendships and your relationships

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that really help you pull through.

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Hey, Tobe.

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And that's exactly the case with Lee Dunlop.

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He joined the army soon after leaving school

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and when he finished his military service,

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he entered the building trade, eventually becoming a foreman.

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Now, when he's not labouring, Lee has his hands full with family life.

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Well, there's myself and my wife Rachel

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and Griff and Stanley and Toby are my stepsons

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and then my son Rufus, who's a year and a half old.

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'Well, with four boys living in the house,

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'there's always boys visiting, kids knocking on the door -

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'there's always something going on.'

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The only time it's quiet is usually about an hour after bedtime.

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But life as the Dunlop family knew it changed

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when Lee got some devastating news.

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I had blood in my urine and I went off to see my GP

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thinking I'd pulled a muscle or knocked myself on a building site.

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Fairly quickly, he told me that I had polycystic kidney disease

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and I'd inherited it.

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It came as a bit of a surprise

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because up until then I'd always been very fit

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and assumed that I'd skipped the horror of inherited genetic disease.

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All of a sudden, wallop, you've got a dose of something incurable

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and it's going to lead to kidney failure

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and your only option from there is a kidney transplant

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or you're going to die.

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From the day he was diagnosed, Lee's kidney function was monitored

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but it's now so bad he's on the kidney transplant waiting list.

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On average, there's a three-year wait but at the rate he's going,

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he'll either need a new kidney or dialysis before the year is out.

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Initially, my wife was very, very upset.

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I went from the guy that she met that was strong and fit

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and well-known and very active

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to, all of sudden, "Look, darling, I'm still the same man

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"but, as it is, I've got something that isn't going to get better

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"and it's going to make me seriously ill."

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So it was difficult. It was very difficult.

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It was very upsetting and she had a really good cry over it

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and it left me with the position of trying to be the positive one

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and try to make it seem that it would all be all right

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but obviously, it's not all going to be all right, is it?

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It's got to be dealt with. Anything could happen yet.

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Rachel was powerless

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to prevent her husband slowly getting weaker and weaker.

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I couldn't deal with it for a while and then, six months later,

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I thought, "It's time to get strong, time to go to gym,

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"time to sort myself out. I've got to be strong and I've got to be strong."

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And that's what I'm doing. I'm being strong.

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'I'm first one up out of bed, last one to sleep every night.

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'You life's an endless cycle of work, isn't it?'

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It is like being mum and dad and being a carer at the same time.

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'Lee's a very proud bloke.'

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To see him now in the physical and mental state he's in,

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it is really upsetting.

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I can't explain how it makes me feel, to be honest.

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It's horrible.

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It is horrible.

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When Lee's kidneys got worse, he was forced to change his entire life,

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starting with his job.

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Things got to a head and I gave up the building work.

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-Hey, Chris.

-Hi. How are you doing?

-I'm all right. You OK?

-Yeah.

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-Come and have a coffee.

-That's a good idea, it really is.

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He applied for a job at the local zoo.

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They were looking for somebody to do building work and maintenance.

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I approached them and said, "Look, I've got a kidney problem,"

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but at the time, I was still doing OK.

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Lee had a much-needed stroke of luck when he got the job at the zoo

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and Chris Moiser was an understanding boss.

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'Lee started working here about two years ago now.'

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We knew when he started that he was ill.

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'They were fantastic.'

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They were worried that they could only offer me minimum wage

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but it was more about the ability to go to work, anyway,

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and continue working.

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Lee's dedication at work made him popular at the zoo

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but soon, he was too exhausted and ill to do even a part-time job,

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so he had to stop work completely.

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I went to the Jobcentre and the Jobcentre told me

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what I should be applying for.

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I was asked to attend a work-focussed capability assessment,

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which was a medical.

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I received a letter

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telling me quite clearly that there was nothing wrong with me

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and I had no incapability to work and I wasn't entitled,

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which came as a huge surprise,

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considering I was on the national kidney transplant list at this time.

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The family couldn't believe it.

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Lee needed a kidney transplant but was being told to go back to work.

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With only 15% of his kidney working, Lee was permanently exhausted.

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He couldn't walk, couldn't work and had no money.

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The situation was desperate.

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It affected us in every way

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and not having the money meant that I had to sell some possessions,

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gold rings and collectables that I'd been keeping for the children,

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that I'd had for years, and I had to sell them

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because the oldest of my stepchildren, his school PE kit alone costs £74.

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So the way we had to fund it was to sell personal possessions,

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which was really quite upsetting, really.

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Lee felt he had no option but to attempt to go back to work.

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His boss, Chris Moiser, was shocked.

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It appears the government thought his ability to work as a builder

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was confirmed because he could get to the bathroom unaided

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and raise both hands above his head.

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We were horrified about the prospect of having him back at work

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because, quite frankly, I think one day could have killed him,

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and it could have killed him quickly and suddenly.

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Chris and his wife Jean set about doing all they could to strengthen Lee's case.

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We did a couple of letters to the Department of Work and Pensions,

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social security, phoned the MP's office

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and did everything else we could to draw attention to his case

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and the total sheer injustice of it.

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Along with being employers, they've become very close friends.

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They're wonderful people.

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Lee was finding out that he had a friend and champion in his employer

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but there was an even bigger surprise in store for him,

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when a family friend stepped forward with a priceless offer.

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'PJ's a bit of a godsend, actually.'

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He's proving to be my hero at the moment, that's who PJ is.

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PJ saw an opportunity to help

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and without fear or thought for himself, he took it.

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Several people, with good intentions, said, "I'll give you a kidney,"

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and when PJ first said it, in all honesty, you know,

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it was a case of, "Yeah, cheers, mate, thanks very much," but...

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a few weeks passed and then PJ's knocking on my door

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and saying, "I've been for a blood test

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"to find out my blood group like you said I'd have to know."

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He went for the first test and it was compatible

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and the second test was compatible

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and we just couldn't believe it.

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I've feel like I've been given hope that my husband is coming home.

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But as with any surgery, there's always a risk,

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so offering up a kidney is a courageous thing for a healthy person to do.

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Yeah, it's an amazing thing. It's an amazing thing.

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It's something that I consider every day of my life.

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To check that he can go through with the transplant,

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PJ has been in and out of hospital.

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It must be scary, thinking you're going to be going through life with just one kidney.

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What he's doing for his friend is nothing short of heroic.

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'I really, truly hope that he can get back the life he had before.'

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He's got a long road ahead of him but he's a strong man, he can do it.

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With a little bit of help from his friends, I guess.

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And thanks to Lee's boss Chris,

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Lee has been secure in the knowledge that he has a job to go to

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after this ordeal is over.

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To know that when I reach the other side of it all,

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I've got work waiting for me is, well, it's wonderful, really.

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But the final great piece of news is that when the surgery goes ahead,

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Lee can rest easy

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knowing his family will have the money they need to survive.

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He has been awarded the benefits he was after,

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Employment Support Allowance, for 12 months.

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I don't have to worry now. I've got 12 months to go through my surgery,

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recover from my surgery and hopefully get back to work

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without having to worry about anything else.

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Yeah, psychologically, and it will have a physical impact as well,

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because I'm not going to be stressed and worried

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about trying to do a job that I can't do.

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So it's made a big difference.

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Thanks to the bravery of PJ, the actions of Chris and Jane

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and the support of his wife and kids,

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he's well on the way to getting the operation and the money he needs.

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Since making this film, the Department for Work and Pensions

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have had the Work Capability Assessment reviewed

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by an independent health expert

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and changes to the system will now be made

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to make the assessment fairer and more effective.

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There's light at the end of the tunnel.

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I've got to undergo surgery and I've got to recover from surgery

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but then, yeah - get my fitness back and go up the hills with the kids

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and down the beach and going back to work

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and all the things that come with a normal happy, healthy life.

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It's going to be brilliant.

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I know Lee more than anybody

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and he is such a strong person, he will get out of hospital in no time.

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I can't wait to see him just back to health and getting stronger again

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and being able to hold his little boy and play with him.

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The outlook for Lee is by no means certain

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but it's looking a lot, lot better.

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He's managed to access some vital funds

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to help him through the hard times

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and thanks to the selfless act of a very close friend,

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there is now hope for a future.

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From the saints helping people in need

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to those totally abusing the system.

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The National Health Service receives billions of pounds of government money

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to provide health care for all.

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But even this national institution isn't safe from scroungers.

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Louise Tomkins was a senior NHS manager

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in charge of a huge budget.

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But when hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of suspicious invoices were discovered,

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the NHS counter fraud team wanted to know more.

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So far, they know that Louise Tomkins had authorised

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a string of dodgy invoices.

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And a phone call to one of the contractors has revealed

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that the money wasn't going on NHS equipment or staff.

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But they don't know where it is going

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or why a woman on a £70,000 salary would need it.

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What we did, after we had looked at these invoices,

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is we started to contact the payee,

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so that took us around the country.

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These individuals were willing to give statements

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and they all told us what services they offered Louise

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and it was nothing to do with the hospital.

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So what was the money paying for?

0:20:190:20:22

Did Tomkins have a taste for shopping trips?

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Was it a millionaire yacht?

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Or a string of properties?

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Guess again.

0:20:340:20:37

It transpires she is very well known in the equestrian world,

0:20:370:20:41

dealing with horses, breeding horses,

0:20:410:20:43

show jumping, this type of thing,

0:20:430:20:45

and had a very good reputation in that world.

0:20:450:20:48

Louise Tomkins, when not managing millions of pounds of NHS money,

0:20:510:20:56

was running a stud farm.

0:20:560:20:57

In fact, she was a well-known horse breeder

0:21:000:21:02

and had even appeared in a country magazine,

0:21:020:21:05

talking about her horses, as well as her work in the health service.

0:21:050:21:09

But Louise was using the NHS budget to pay for building work,

0:21:130:21:17

horses, security for the farm and even more.

0:21:170:21:20

At the farm, she had an expensive and elaborate CCTV system installed.

0:21:230:21:29

She altered those invoices

0:21:290:21:31

so they read as though it was a CCTV system installed at the hospital.

0:21:310:21:37

A CCTV system. That must have taken a lot of front.

0:21:370:21:41

I'm wondering what else she put through.

0:21:410:21:44

How many times did everybody shout out, "You won't believe this one!"

0:21:440:21:48

-About two, three times a week.

-Yeah, I bet. I bet.

0:21:480:21:51

What was the cheekiest one you saw on there?

0:21:510:21:54

I'll show you this one. This is a really cheeky one.

0:21:540:21:57

These invoices show that she was buying horse semen.

0:21:570:22:00

-Yeah.

-I wonder how the NHS feel about paying for horse semen?

-Mm.

0:22:010:22:06

I know they do a bit for infertility and things like that

0:22:060:22:09

-but not in that department.

-Not at all.

-Oh, no.

0:22:090:22:11

-Your help doesn't stretch that far, does it?

-No!

0:22:110:22:14

Can you believe the cheek of Louise Tomkins?

0:22:180:22:20

She was using NHS money to pay for things like horse semen

0:22:200:22:25

and running a stud farm,

0:22:250:22:26

money that was meant to go for the care of the sick.

0:22:260:22:29

And she was covering her tracks with what she believed was a foolproof system.

0:22:290:22:33

While the medics in her hospital were saving lives,

0:22:350:22:38

from her desk, Tomkins was doing some doctoring of her own.

0:22:380:22:42

Tomkins had actually been receiving invoices

0:22:440:22:47

that were sent to her own private address for the business.

0:22:470:22:50

The invoices were being disguised to make them look like transactions

0:22:510:22:55

that would be appropriate to her department.

0:22:550:22:58

So after Louise had made a few adjustments to these invoices...

0:22:590:23:03

new livestock could become titanium skull caps.

0:23:050:23:08

A new fence, counselling.

0:23:100:23:12

And horse semen?

0:23:140:23:16

Laparoscopic equipment.

0:23:160:23:18

Even though some of the invoices were from abroad,

0:23:190:23:22

Tomkins pushed them through.

0:23:220:23:24

When she was questioned, she gave a plausible answer

0:23:260:23:29

as to why she was buying equipment from abroad and what it was for.

0:23:290:23:33

So these companies, did they know what was going on?

0:23:330:23:35

No, I don't believe they did.

0:23:350:23:37

What about the English work? What about the guys working at the farm?

0:23:370:23:41

The money's coming in from the NHS. Surely alarm bells must ring?

0:23:410:23:45

When they received the advice slip, they queried it with her

0:23:450:23:48

and Louise would always have a plausible answer

0:23:480:23:51

as to why it said that.

0:23:510:23:52

It seems that Tomkins was very good at talking her way out of suspicion.

0:23:540:23:58

But if you thought diverting medical money

0:24:000:24:02

to pay for her horsey lifestyle is bad, there's more to come.

0:24:020:24:05

She also had control of another pot of money,

0:24:060:24:10

this time a charity fund run by the hospital.

0:24:100:24:13

She wasn't just fiddling the NHS, though, she was also targeted a charitable trust.

0:24:130:24:18

Well, yes, the trust itself had a fund set up for the staff.

0:24:180:24:22

A lot of these monies were donated by the patients themselves

0:24:220:24:25

and this is set up for staff training, welfare issues

0:24:250:24:29

and things like that.

0:24:290:24:30

She manipulated invoices and diverted funds,

0:24:300:24:34

got money back from that trust,

0:24:340:24:36

where she just made up the things that she said she'd paid out for.

0:24:360:24:39

She just stole the money. Scandalous behaviour.

0:24:390:24:41

The fraud didn't stop when Tomkins changed jobs.

0:24:440:24:47

She moved to Ealing Hospital and guess what?

0:24:470:24:49

Similar invoices were found.

0:24:490:24:52

This particular invoice relates to equipment

0:24:530:24:55

that could be used in Louise Tomkins' horse business.

0:24:550:24:59

It was dressed up

0:24:590:25:00

as an invoice for laparoscopic consumables and kit.

0:25:000:25:03

Laparoscopic surgery is actually the term for keyhole surgery.

0:25:030:25:08

The value of the invoices paid by Ealing Hospital NHS trust

0:25:110:25:14

through Louise's fraudulent actions totalled just short of £23,000

0:25:140:25:19

and if you want to convert that

0:25:190:25:20

into what we could do as an organisation with that money,

0:25:200:25:24

that equates to five hip operations.

0:25:240:25:26

But it was all about to catch up with her.

0:25:280:25:31

The Metropolitan Police assisted us in arresting Louise Tomkins.

0:25:320:25:36

Several documents were taken from the house, also computer equipment.

0:25:400:25:45

We put all our questions to Louise,

0:25:460:25:48

giving her an opportunity to give an explanation of the facts

0:25:480:25:51

but she said no comment.

0:25:510:25:53

They didn't need to hear it from the horse's mouth.

0:26:000:26:03

There was so much evidence against Tomkins that she pleaded guilty.

0:26:030:26:07

Between July 2007 and September 2008,

0:26:080:26:12

she had fraudulently taken a grand total

0:26:120:26:15

of £201,333 of NHS money

0:26:150:26:20

for her own purposes.

0:26:200:26:22

Even though she pleaded guilty,

0:26:240:26:26

Tomkins wasn't spared when it came to her punishment.

0:26:260:26:30

On the 10th June 2010 at Southwark Crown Court,

0:26:300:26:34

Louise Tomkins was sentenced to a hefty two years nine months in prison.

0:26:340:26:39

But what about all that money she took?

0:26:400:26:42

The police are currently conducting a financial investigation

0:26:440:26:48

that aims to recover the money that Louise stole from the NHS,

0:26:480:26:52

so it can go back into the NHS for patients.

0:26:520:26:55

What a result.

0:26:550:26:57

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:200:27:22

E-mail [email protected]

0:27:220:27:24

Dominic Littlewood presents a series looking at the work of fraud investigators searching out benefit thieves and meets the people they are stealing from - the genuine claimants.

This episode features the story of an NHS manager who managed to steal over 200,000 pounds of NHS money to fund her own business.

And Lee Dunlop, struck down by polycystic kidney disease in 2006, feared his life was at an end if he couldn't find a kidney donor. Incredibly, help was literally just round the corner.


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