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NHS IT fraudster Barry Stannard sentenced to five years in prison

Stannard used his position as head of unified communications at an Essex NHS Trust to cheat the taxpayer of more than £800,000

Fraudster Barry Stannard, a former IT manager from Essex, has been sentenced to five years and four months in prison after cheating the NHS and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) out of £806,229.80.

He had pled guilty to two charges of fraud by false representation and two charges of cheating the public revenue at a court hearing in June 2021.

Stannard, 53, of Chelmsford and previously of Hadleigh near Southend, committed the offences over a seven-year period while he was working as head of unified communications at Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust (MEHT), which has since been merged into Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

His conviction comes following a lengthy investigation by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) as it ramps up its focus on procurement fraud in the NHS.

NHSCFA CEO Sue Frith said: “Barry Stannard abused his position in an outrageous way to line his pockets with money intended for NHS services.

“We are aware of the significant risk that procurement fraud poses for the NHS, which is why the NHS Counter Fraud Authority has been continually working to develop fraud prevention solutions over the past few years,” she said. “Today’s sentence shows that the NHSCFA’s investigative and preventative work tackling NHS fraud is vital.”

Frith urged NHS workers who suspect fraud to be taking place within the health service to report concerns to the NHSCFA through its online reporting service, or by telephone via its dedicated reporting line on 0800 028 40 60.

Concerns about Stannard’s conduct first arose after MEHT ran a data-matching exercise on its payroll and accounts payable records alongside Companies House records. A comprehensive initial investigation was first conducted by counter-fraud specialists RSM before the case was escalated to the NHSCFA as it became apparent that specialist financial investigation powers would be needed.

The subsequent investigation found Stannard submitted a falsified ‘nil return’ declaration of interests form to MEHT, while he was in fact the director of two companies that had both received large sums of money from the trust between 2012 and 2019 because he was submitting and then settling the invoices.

The number of invoices submitted ran into the hundreds, all of them for relatively modest amounts, which Stannard did purposefully to ensure he would be authorised to sign them off without further checks. As a band 8b senior manager, he was in a position of trust.

Stannard also charged for VAT on these invoices – which he never forwarded to HMRC – using a VAT number he had appropriated and related to another legitimate business. The VAT charged totalled £132,000, which is included in the total sum.

While Stannard was siphoning the NHS’ money into his own pocket, no products or services invoiced for by his companies were ever provided to the NHS. The NHSCFA noted that the stolen money came from MEHT’s IT budget, which inevitably meant the trust had less money to spend on technology and digital services.

Established under the NHS Act of 2006, the NHSCFA is a special health authority sponsored by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). It has around 300 professionally trained and accredited local counter fraud specialists placed within the health service across England and Wales, and works on a collaborative basis with NHS Scotland’s Counter Fraud Service unit.

Other recent instances of fraud handled by the NHSCA include the successful prosecution of a Cardiff GP who funnelled stolen cheques into his bank account, and submitted false claims for exaggerated hours and locum shifts that he failed to work, to fund a serious gambling addiction; and a financial specialist who managed to hold down three concurrent financial directorships at NHS trusts in Cheshire, Merseyside and Staffordshire – at one stage receiving a salary of £2,000 a day.

The NHS is thought to have lost £1.12bn to fraud, bribery and corruption in the 2018-2019 financial year.

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