Nurse struck off for cheating NHS out of £5,000 in taxi rides

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A nurse who conned the NHS out of more than £5,000 in free taxis home from work during the Covid-19 pandemic has been struck off.

Sarah Harris made 112 bookings from St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth, to addresses near her house in Bromley between April and December 2020, minutes of a Nursing and Midwifery Council [NMC] misconduct hearing revealed.

Each approximately 10-mile journey cost about £42.

The senior nurse told a panel she ‘made up some names’ when arranging the bookings. On 11 occasions Ms Harris used names of patients who had been treated at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation trust.

She made the bookings with her mobile phone number and charged the journeys to the NHS by using the trust’s cost code. Ms Harris was rumbled after a whistleblower alerted the hospital.

When confronted, Ms Harris initially denied the allegations, but within 24 hours she confessed to her wrongdoing.

In a statement admitting fraud to her manager in December 2020, Ms Harris said she had ‘booked a taxi on a number of occasions’ because she wanted to ‘travel separately from the public’ due to her fears of contracting Covid-19.

In an undated statement of reflection written after she was dismissed from the trust in May 2021, Ms Harris said that she was ‘constantly terrified of Covid 19’. She added: “I saw countless bodies being moved to the morgue daily, which made me so afraid.”

Ms Harris told the NMC hearing in November 2023 that she had grown since her wrongdoing in 2020 and was no longer the same person. She said that her ‘spirituality’ and ‘faith’ would prevent her from being dishonest again in the future. At the time of the hearing she had paid back the £5,198.40 in taxi costs in full and was working in a new job at a GP surgery.

But a fitness to practise panel decided to impose its most serious punishment on Ms Harris, and banned her from working as a nurse.

The panel said she had ‘limited insight’ and ‘did not demonstrate a full understanding of the motivations for [her] behaviour’. As a result, the panel said there was a risk of ‘further dishonest acts’ if she were to find herself in a tricky situation in the future.

Explaining its decision to remove Ms Harris’s name from the register, the panel said: “Your actions were premeditated, sophisticated and deliberate.

“You used patients’ names and details. You fabricated names. You created false addresses within the locality of your home. This was to conceal your fraud. This was a very serious breach of trust.”

Pictured top: St Thomas’ Hospital (Picture: Google Street View)

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