Nurse who faked sick note caught out after people looked at her Facebook

Sarah Oakes outside Liverpool Crown Court
Sarah Oakes outside Liverpool Crown Court -Credit:Liverpool Echo

A nurse got a new job and went on holiday to Cuba while claiming sick pay from a hospital.

Sarah Oakes forged a doctor's note in order to be granted leave before faking a reference from her employer in order to gain the second role. Her romantic trips abroad were rumbled after she posted snaps of herself and her new husband on their travels on social media.

Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday afternoon, Thursday, that the 44-year-old first began working at Whiston Hospital in October 2015. Oakes, of Westwood in Runcorn, then went off sick in February 2019 complaining of chronic hip pain and having reportedly had surgery on her foot.

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But Sarah Holt, prosecuting, described how she then failed to attend a number of welfare appointments, after which it was discovered she had provided the trust with three fraudulent sick notes. She ultimately resigned from her position on August 28 that year.

It subsequently transpired Oakes had been offered a job at Warrington Hospital after attending an open day in January 2019, although she did not begin work until August 12. She obtained this staff nurse role after providing two references.

However, it was then found one of these testimonials, from a fellow employee at Whiston Hospital, had not been genuine. Oakes was dismissed from Warrington Hospital in November 2021.

She was also said to have visited Cuba twice during her six months on sick leave, having posted pictures from these trips on her Facebook page. One of these excursions saw her travel to meet her then boyfriend, while the second journey was undertaken in order to marry him.

Ms Holt said Oakes had falsely claimed a total of more than £31,000 in wages from Warrington Hospital and sick pay from Whiston Hospital. She has no previous convictions.

Patrick Williamson, defending, told the court his client suffers from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. He added: "That work with the second trust must have been of some value, albeit the job was obtained fraudulently.

"The defendant obtained the job with Whiston Hospital in 2015. There is no indication of any inappropriate behaviour on her part or falling short in the job.

"She worked there for four years. At the beginning of 2019, a number of matters arose personally and professionally which led to her behaviour in consequent months.

"At work, she maintains that she was subjected to bullying. She had been in a same sex relationship for four years, and received comments she described as homophobic. In addition, her son attempted suicide. She has a number of children.

"He was 15 when he was diagnosed with autism or Asperger's, and he made an attempt on his life at that time. These things put her under significant pressure. She then decided to seek work elsewhere and she succeeded in getting that job. She provided one perfectly legitimate reference but one fraudulent, forged by herself.

"She provided further false information in respect of sickness. During that time, she did miscarry. That did not assist her mental health. In the latter part of that six months, she visited Cuba and married a gentleman she had met there originally in 2017.

"She then went to work for Warrington Hospital. During that time, she provided work to satisfactory standards. She has obtained subsequent employment. She has worked for Bridgewater Community Trust since 2021 as a community nurse.

"She has disclosed the proceedings to her present employers, and they are considering their position. It would seem that this job is potentially in jeopardy. There are children at home. Her four-year-old child is, at present, being tested for autism.

"If the defendant lost her liberty, her partner would not be able to keep his job and look after the children, and he would not be able to seek benefits due to his position in this country. She is claiming maternity pay until September this year, and her husband works in a warehouse."

Oakes admitted two counts of fraud by false representation. She was handed a 14-month imprisonment suspended for two years and a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 20 days.

Sentencing, Judge Anil Murray said: "This was a sustained period that you were lying for. It looks like you were interviewed coming up to three years ago and made admissions but, amazingly, you were not sent a postal charge until January this year.

"You are not thought to pose a risk to the public. It is thought that you do have a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.

"You have not been in trouble since this, three years ago. There is significant personal mitigation, and if I were to send you to prison that would have a calamitous effect on your children.

"I am just able to suspend this sentence. If I meet you again, it will mean that you have breached this order. I will be driven to send you to prison. You will want to say thank you to Mr Williamson."

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