Crime & Courts

Debts Haunt England-Based Zimbabwean Trainee Nurse After Getting Paid For Shifts She Didn’t Turn Up To

A Leeds trainee nurse fleeced the NHS of nearly £9,000 for shifts she didn’t turn up to after being thrown off a university course which left her in financial trouble.

Sophia Kudzai Chifamba had begun her nursing training at the University of Leeds (UoL) but was thrown off the course for academic malpractice including plagiarism in 2017. She did not appeal the exclusion and instead applied for a master’s programme at the University of Huddersfield (UoH), a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) tribunal heard.

After initially paying for her studies through an NHS bursary, Chifamba lost funding due to her exclusion from UoL and instead took out an overdraft with her bank, four payday loans and borrowed from family and friends. At the time fraud charges arose, she said she was ‘drowning in debt’ and had bailiffs attending her home on a regular basis.

Recruiting agency REED, contracted by Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, was managing bank staff of workers as well as managing agency bookings for staffing at the time of the offences. The Trust assessed the ‘staff bank’ roster and identified that many of Chifamba’s shifts had been marked down as “did not attend”, “no show“ or that they had never been finalised.

Nursing agency, 24/7 Nursing, had provided the Trust with timesheets completed and signed by Chifamba which said she had attended shifts and that the correct process had been followed. She was paid £8,814.49 from July 2018 to September 2019 for these shifts.

Ms Brittany Buckell representing the NMC at a fitness to practice committee hearing said that claiming for shifts and failing to attend those shifts, left the hospital understaffed and placed patients at an unwarranted risk of harm. She said that Chifamba demonstrated a ‘pattern of dishonesty’ that went beyond claiming for shifts she didn’t attend.

On June 16, 2022, Chifamba was convicted of fraud contrary to sections (1) and (2) of the Fraud Act 2006 at Leeds Magistrate’s Court. She was later sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay compensation of £1,000.

Chifamba told the NMC hearing that she had been unable to pay off the pay day loans and was required to create a payment plan, which remains ongoing at £100 every month. She said she would often go without electricity at home for weeks at a time but later clarified the longest period was 10 days.

She said that because she didn’t have the money to pay the prepayment meter she would buy candles and would only eat at work. She went on to say this greatly impacted her studies, leaving her completing assignments in breaks during shifts or by going to the library.

Leeds Live

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