NHS worker overpaid by £21,000 will not pay money back

04 November 2019

The BBC has reported how health worker, Lauren O’Keefe, who was overpaid £21,000 due to an administrative error, will not have to repay the money.

O’Keefe, a 25-year-old from Wales, was a zero-hours worker who also received a fixed salary payment in addition to money for the hours she worked. The total figure equates to £21,524 that was paid to her in error over an 18-month period.  

She claims that she initially thought the additional payments related to tax refunds but admitted that she did eventually realise that the money was being incorrectly paid to her account. She spent the additional funds despite this knowledge and paid for a beauty course and day to day expenses.

O’Keefe was dismissed following an investigation into the overpayments by the counter-fraud service. She was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months on the count of fraud and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work, but she will not have to repay any of the money back.

This case is particularly poignant as the money overpaid should have been spent on other NHS resource and services. It is a case that demonstrates that payroll departments should have proper processes in place to prevent overpayments and that there should be resource dedicated to investigating the issue. Whilst there is the initial financial issue of an overpayment, there are also significant effects on payroll teams in terms of rectifying the problem and ensuring everything is dealt with in line with legislation.

 CIPP comment

 The CIPP offers a half-day training course surrounding the issue of overpayments. The agenda includes identifying common causes of overpayments and looks at the complexities surrounding whether there is a right to reclaim erroneous payments. The next course takes place in Manchester on 19 November 2019.


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