NHS secretary jailed for £55k charity fund theft

Lorraine Warden forged a signature at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital. Picture: Creative Commons
Lorraine Warden forged a signature at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital. Picture: Creative Commons
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AN NHS secretary has been jailed after she embezzled £55,000 from a hospital charity fund.

Lorraine Warden forged the signature of a doctor at Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital to steal the sum, which was intended to pay for medics to have additional training in ear, nose and throat medicine.

A sheriff described the scam as “blatant” and said Warden had even been claiming tax credits to top up her salary while stealing the cash.

Warden’s lawyer blamed spiralling debts to payday lenders.

Warden helped administrate the Tayside Otolaryngology Fund as part of her position as a secretary in the hospital.

Dr Stephen Jones, an ear nose and throat consultant in the department, was the only signatory on the bank account for the fund, which received cash from donors.

But he noticed discrepancies in a spreadsheet used to manage the fund’s money and confronted Warden. She initially said the error related to receipts not being added to it and she would remedy the situation.

However, a check of the fund’s chequebook revealed several stubs that did not tally with the spreadsheet or the charity’s bank account.

A full investigation revealed Warden had written 61 cheques to herself and one in the name of her daughter, stealing a total of £55,000.

Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson told Dundee Sheriff Court that when interviewed by police, Warden blamed the crime on spiralling payday loan debts.

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She said: “Initially, three cheques totalling £3,792.08 were found to have been cashed by the accused.

“She had moved to a job with Dundee University and was suspended as inquiries continued.

“The doctor confirmed his signature had been forged on the cheques and she was suspended from her position after admitting cashing the cheques.

“A further investigation found a large number of cheques had been made out to the accused.

“On the cheques were the signatures of the signatories which had been forged. There was no reason for cheques to have been paid to the accused.

“She had cashed a total of 62 cheques totalling £55,000.”

Warden, 44, of Muirhead, pleaded guilty on indictment to a charge of embezzlement.

She stole the cash between 2007 and 2012 at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, where she worked as a secretary for NHS Tayside and Dundee University.

Defence solicitor Ross Donnelly said: “She was using payday loans to cover the household finances and it got to the stage where the amount she had to pay each month was more than her whole salary. The interest rates were that extortionate.

“None of the money was for extravagance or a luxurious lifestyle – simply for the loans and everyday bills.

“However, she is not in a position to pay any of it back.”

Sheriff Elizabeth Munro jailed Warden for 16 months. She said: “This was essentially £11,000 per year for five years. This was a charity you stole from and there’s no question of them getting the money back.”