Health worker overpaid £21k will not pay back money

Image caption,
Lauren O'Keefe worked as a healthcare assistant at hospitals such as the Royal Glamorgan in Rhondda Cynon Taff

A healthcare worker who kept quiet about being overpaid more than £21,000 will not have to repay the money.

But it has cost Lauren O'Keefe her job with a south Wales health board, Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court has heard.

The 25-year-old from Treharris in Merthyr received £21,524 extra in salaries from Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board over an 18-month period.

She admitted theft and was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and 180 hours of unpaid work.

The court was told that when the additional payments began, in April 2017, O'Keefe believed they were a tax rebate.

She continued receiving payments from the health board over the next year and a half, and spent every penny, said prosecutor Carl Harrison.

"She knew the money coming in was being paid in error but didn't notify the NHS because she couldn't afford to pay it back," he said.

Image caption,
O'Keefe admitted a single charge of theft from the health board at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court

The court was told the single parent, who worked as a healthcare assistant on a zero-hours contract, spent the money on household bills.

"She didn't inform anyone and lacked the foresight to realise the longer it went on for, the more she would have to pay back," said Tim Lewis, defending.

The court was told O'Keefe was in "financial dire straits" after being sacked by the health board.

Mr Lewis said: "She wants to repay it but at the moment she's not in a financial position to do so."

Sentencing her, Judge Richard Twomlow said he accepted O'Keefe felt "real remorse" for her actions and had never been in trouble before.

"Despite the seriousness of this offence and despite the fact that none of the money has been repaid I am suspending your sentence," said the judge.

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