A PRACTICE manager has been jailed for running a £596,940 fraud at a GP surgery to support an expensive lifestyle for her family, York Crown Court heard.

Carolyn Lightwing used her position at Elvington Medical Centre to forge invoices for prescription drugs and divert money from its accounts into her own bank account, said Rob Galley, prosecuting.

Each year, she “repaid” the money she had taken using the practice’s funds by manipulating the end of year accounts.

She continued the fraud for three years from July 2014 to August 2017.

She had been so trusted, doctors provided countersignatures on cheques she presented to them without question. Her activities affected the surgery’s financial affairs including VAT problems.

The court heard that during the fraud, she and her family upgraded to a £800,000 house and went on expensive holidays. She had also paid private school fees.

Lightwing, 55, of St Mary’s, Clifton, a teacher before she became a practice manager and now running an upmarket York guesthouse, pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and was jailed for two years.

The CPS accepted the defence claim that the most missing from the surgery accounts at any one time was £209,300. There are ongoing civil proceedings between the surgery and Lightwing.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Sarah Burton, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “This was a massive breach of trust by the defendant and it has had a profound effect on everyone at the surgery.

“Now that justice has been done, I hope that the staff are able to put this difficult time behind them and continue their vital role in our communities without the distraction that this audacious case has caused.”

For Lightwing, Kevin Blount said she was remorseful and the loss of her good character was a punishment by itself.

Her husband David, a partner at the surgery, had reduced his hours because of mental health problems, said the solicitor advocate.

She feared that they would increase if she told him his reduced income had affected the family finances, so she started the fraud to maintain the family’s lifestyle.

Knowing it would be detected when she left the practice, she told senior staff in November 2017, not knowing the practice was already investigating account discrepancies.

Then she had told her husband, who had allowed her to repay £209,300 using inheritances from two of his relatives. Abigail Holdstock, current practice manager at Elvington Medical Practice, said partners and staff had been "shocked and upset " on learning of the crime committed by their "trusted, former employee and work colleague". She added: “The partners have assisted the police with their investigation of the crime since it was discovered in November 2017. As far as the partners are aware, there has been no compromise to patient care as a result of Mrs Lightwing’s fraud.

“The partners now wish to move on from what has been a very distressing chapter in the practice’s history.”