NHS hired conman on £320,000 five months after he was unmasked
- Credit: EEAST
As he presented his bar charts and bullet points to the board of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust in July 2013, Stephen Day looked every inch the straight-laced financial director.
But he was in fact a career criminal who had duped friends, faked illnesses, held simultaneous jobs, and swindled £1.4m. At that very moment, as he talked his audience through the ambulance service’s latest annual accounts, he was under investigation by the NHS.
Five months before he was hired as EEAST's finance director his previous NHS bosses had discovered massive wrongdoing, yet somehow here he stood, responsible for an ambulance trust's £230 million budget.
How was this possible? And could it happen again?
Day, 51, was jailed last week for 12 counts of fraud and theft including drawing salaries from three NHS Trusts simultaneously.
This newspaper can now reveal that managers knew of his multiple employments in early January 2013.
Yet he was put in charge of EEAST’s £230m budget in late May 2013, costing them £323,304 in pay and fees in just 12 months.
During that period, he also found time to renovate his Scottish country estate, steal £22,000 from a nurse, begin a romance fraud on an old friend, and attend other companies’ board meetings - during one of which he faked a heart attack.
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But the Trust continues to refuse to answer this newspaper’s questions about what due diligence it carried out before hiring Day, whether his performance and attendance were adequate, whether the trust was defrauded, and the circumstances of his departure.
Alex Stewart, chief executive of patient group Healthwatch Norfolk, said: “They have to be as open and transparent as possible.
“We should know what lessons have been learned as a result of the incident, and how we know it won’t happen again.”
Three trusts, 20 companies, and one angina attack
Between 2011 and 2014 Day, of Quiech Mill, Blairgowrie, used his status to be appointed as director, financial director or company secretary of four organisations including a care home provider for vulnerable people.
Once in place he sought to empty their bank accounts into his own and hide the trail with false ledger accounts and documents, swindling a total of more than £1.4m from those who trusted him.
He created a complex web of corporate entities of his own and was estimated by prosecutors to be connected to at least 20 companies by the time of his arrest in September 2014.
Once his fellow board members started to ask difficult questions he would become evasive and feign illness, or blame his frequent absences with lies that he had cancer or that his parents had recently died.
Several times between May 2012 and the end of 2013 he attended meetings of the board of a care home business he had co-founded only to “fall ill” during the meeting, on one occasion feigning an angina attack.
Day also worked “full-time” for three NHS trusts in the Northwest at the same time on a combined salary of £2,000 a day, on top of his many private business interests.
But as his simultaneous commitments at Merseyside Commissioning Support Unit, South East Staffordshire CCG, and Cheshire & Wirral Partnership Trust began to overwhelm him, his frequent absences and poor performance were recorded by his managers.
His bosses in Staffordshire and Merseyside recorded repeated unexplained, or bizarrely explained, absences and poor performance as early as December 2012.
Matters came to a head on January 14 2013, Day’s first day at what would be his third concurrent full-time job.
He told his boss in Staffordshire he had shingles. He told his boss at Merseyside he was not in good shape after receiving bad medical test results. And he told his new boss at Cheshire and Wirral he was snowed in.
All were lies.
But Roslind Francke, who had conducted Day’s handover to his newest job at Cheshire and Wirral, had herself moved to a role at Staffordshire, and noticed Day’s work email address for his position there.
She made enquiries with Merseyside and Cheshire and established Day was concurrently employed by all three organisations.
He left those roles soon afterwards but more than four months later, while a local NHS investigation was ongoing, he was recruited via an agency to the top finance job at EEAST.
Renovating the piggery and stealing from a nurse
The crimes for which Stephen Day was jailed do not include any inflicted upon EEAST, but that is not to say he spent the year doing nothing but diligently working for the NHS.
For some of that time he was up in Dumfries and Galloway, according to a neighbour, working on renovating a listed building and 45-acre country estate.
He shared Warmanbie House in Annan with one of his boyfriends (who knew nothing about Day’s other house, and other lover, in Leeds) and their work caused quite a stir in the tiny Scottish village.
Margaret Robinson, who owns the holiday cottage two fields over, explained that the property had been a hotel prior to Day’s arrival, but had fallen into disrepair and “needed a lot doing to it”
She said: “They converted the piggery, they were going to put a swimming pool in, they redid the walled garden.
“There were lots of rumours about where the money came from.”
Day also committed theft during his time working for EEAST, stealing from a former Chief Nurse who had started up her own consultancy business advising the NHS.
In October 2013, and then again in February 2014, Lynne Young gave Day cheques intended for HMRC, to pay her company’s tax bill.
But from cheques of £13,750 and £9,251 he sent only £1,375 to HMRC, and retained the remaining £21,626 for himself. In December 2013 he even sent her an email requesting £46,672 which purported to come from the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Mrs Young told prosecutors she had to close down four previously successful businesses as a direct consequence of Day’s actions, which she described as extremely traumatic.
She said: “I am extremely strong and resilient, but I have been permanently damaged as a direct result of Day’s outrageous criminal actions.”
While at EEAST, Day also began what the judge would later call his “most cynical” crime - a romance fraud on a former friend.
In February 2014, the pair reconnected over a social networking site and began exchanging emails, texts and phonecalls, having previously been out of touch since the 1980s when they worked together.
After they met in May, Day worked to overcome the married woman’s concerns about their relationship, telling her he had feelings for her, and over the next year subjected her to a farrago of lies and extracted around £4,500 from her on false pretences.
He told her he was a widower when there is no evidence of him ever having been married. He was in fact in relationships with two men, neither of whom knew about the other.
He said he was reliant on soup kitchens and needed money for food on the very day he paid a £90 restaurant bill, and invented a fictional job interview on the Isle of Wight, convincing her to give him money for a flight he never took.
She eventually discovered the fraud after a Facebook post about Day’s dogs going missing revealed the dogs were co-owned by Day and one of his partners.
Sentencing him at Leeds Crown Court, the judge said: "There was no boundary of dishonesty that you were not prepared to cross.
“The consequences have been enormous both financially and in other respects, including businesses losing viability and being wound up, people losing their jobs, reputational damage, loss of credit rating and people being unable to sell their homes.
"In short you have caused misery, hardship and anxiety to many. This was industrial scale dishonesty purely to fulfil your own greed."
The questions the Trust has refused to answer
Despite the fact that Day was hired by EEAST after having been rumbled in the Northwest, despite the fact that half way through his tenure at EEAST the NHS Counter Fraud Authority escalated his case to its national team, and despite all that Day did to others during his time at EEAST, the Trust has, since April 15, refused to answer questions put to it by this newspaper.
- Who was responsible for hiring Stephen Day?
- What procedures were followed and what references were taken up?
- Were his performance and attendance acceptable?
- Does the Trust feel it was defrauded?
- Was the Trust notified at any point of NHS Counter Fraud Authority’s investigation?
- Under what circumstances did he leave?
An East of England Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “This individual worked in an interim role at our Trust for a short time, several years ago, and his actions within multiple organisations have been investigated by the Police and the NHS Counter Fraud Authority.
“We take NHS fraud very seriously and have robust systems in place for colleagues to raise any concerns they may have.”
He added that questions should be directed to NHSCFA, which has also refused to provide further information including whether they notified EEAST of their investigation.
Timeline of Day's frauds against the NHS
-June 2012: Day starts work at Merseyside Commissioning Support Unit as finance director on £920+VAT a day
-November 2012: Day starts work at South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula CCG on £650 a day plus VAT.
-January 2013: Day starts work at Cheshire and Wirral Partnership Trust on more than £1100 per day.
-January 2013: Day’s colleague Rosalind Francke moves from Cheshire and Wirral to Staffordshire, and realises Day works in both places. She makes enquiries and establishes that Day was concurrently employed by the three trusts.
-May 2013: NHS in the northwest begins its formal investigation
-May 31 2013: Day starts work at EEAST
-September 2013: NHS Counter Fraud escalates his case to the national team
-May 2014: Day leaves EEAST
-July 2014 : Greater Manchester Police begins investigation
-September 2014: Day arrested
-2015: Day declared bankrupt
-September 2017: Day pleads not guilty on all counts
-July 2018: Day pleads guilty to all counts
-2019-2021: CPS forensic accountants work to confirm amounts lost
-April 2021: Day sentenced to 11 years in prison
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