A therapist from Sheffield who had sex with a colleague in a patient's house has been convicted of fraud – after she took another job while she was suspended by the NHS.
Hazel Bryce, aged 38, of Dodd Street, Hillsborough, was employed as an occupational therapist by Sheffield Health and Social Care when she conducted an affair with a co-worker at a patient’s home.
During her suspension, she was paid more than £17,000 by the NHS trust, as well as over £10,000 by her new employer the Department for Work and Pensions, which brought the prosecution.
The fraud investigation is estimated to have cost more than £12,000.
Before appearing at Sheffield Crown Court, Bryce had already been handed a three-year caution for misconduct by the Health and Care Professions Council.
A tribunal found that, in 2015, Bryce had met a colleague with whom she had been romantically involved some years before on the way to a service user’s house. Bryce and the colleague then travelled to the patient’s home where they had sex.
A few months later, the tribunal found, the pair met again, this time at Bryce’s house. The couple then went to a bedroom where the man’s clothes were removed before another man entered the bedroom and photographed him. Later, compromising pictures of the man were sent to his wife.
Bryce was cautioned last August. She was convicted of fraud following a trial and was sentenced to a 12-month community order, a 10-day rehabilitation order and 80 hours’ unpaid work.
The judge, Recorder Gavin Doig, said it was ‘unfortunate’ Bryce had forced a jury trial by pleading not guilty when the evidence against her had been so ‘overwhelming’.
But he accepted her primary motivation for the fraud may not have been financial, and that her personal circumstances at the time had put her under severe strain.
He also said her son should not be punished for her wrongdoing, and that while compensation orders may have been richly deserved, they would be futile due to her significant debts.
Speaking after the sentencing, Kevan Taylor, chief executive of Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Following trial, a former employee has been found guilty of fraud and we welcome the sentence.
“We treat fraud very seriously and work closely with our local counter-fraud specialist to thoroughly investigate any allegations we receive. I can confirm the individual is no longer employed by the trust.”
Robert Purseglove, the trust’s principal anti-crime specialist, said: “Defrauding the NHS in any capacity is totally unacceptable. We strongly encourage NHS staff and members of the public to play their part in protecting NHS resources and report any suspicions of fraud against the NHS. Anyone can report concerns of fraud within the NHS by calling 0800 028 4060 or visiting https://cfa.nhs.uk/reportfraud.”