Mum jailed after 'grossly exaggerating' health in £4m clinical negligence claim

Mum jailed after 'grossly exaggerating' health in £4m clinical negligence claim

Holly White was caught on video driving to supermarkets and walking around without any disability despite claiming she needed a crutch and could only walk a few steps without resting

Wales Online

A mother who admitted “grossly exaggerating” her health symptoms during a £4 million clinical negligence claim against an NHS trust has been jailed for six months for contempt of court. Holly White, 29, was caught on video driving to supermarkets and walking around without any disability.

She had previously told experts she needed a crutch. She claimed she could only walk a few steps before having to stop and rest.

A High Court judge ruled she “dishonestly and intentionally made false statements” knowing they would “would interfere with the administration of justice by potentially increasing her entitlement to compensation arising from her increased clinical negligence claim” against North Bristol NHS Trust.

Mr Justice Ritchie sentenced Ms White to six months’ immediate imprisonment. He told her a suspended sentence would not “get the message across to you sufficiently strongly that defrauding the NHS, which is funded by the taxpayer is utterly unacceptable”.

In his ruling at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Thursday, the judge explained that Ms White’s negligence claim stemmed from a visit to A&E in September 2011 when she was complaining of leg and lower back pain. She was discharged due to awaiting an MRI scan, without a neurosurgical review or being examined for cauda equina syndrome (CES) – a rare condition her mother had suffered from that affects the nerves in the lower back.

Ms White, who previously worked in a nursing home in Bristol, was later treated for a central disc prolapse, issue that can damage nerves. She alleged the trust was negligent in not referring her for neurosurgical assessment in September 2011, claiming this could have led to treatment halting the progress of her symptoms.

She alleged that the CES led to issues with her bladder, bowel and a weak left ankle. After bringing her claim in September 2014, a settlement was reached with the trust over the issue of liability in May 2017.

In relation to damages, Ms White claimed losses of £4.1 million including for loss of earnings and future medical treatment costs. But in October 2018 the trust instructed “surveillance agents” who filmed Ms White visiting Tesco, Sainsbury’s and a B&M store.

“She drove to and from these stores, getting in and out of her car freely and easily,” Mr Justice Ritchie said. “She walked around the stores without any apparent limp, slowness or disability.”

He added: “It was apparent to any objective observer of those videos that Ms White’s complaints made to various medical and other experts… were false and misleading.” The judge noted that Ms White later issued a witness statement asserting she had not been dishonest despite seeing the video.

Her clinical negligence claim was struck out by a judge in April 2019 and she was ordered to pay back some interim payments. Mr Justice Ritchie said as a result of the way she had run her claim, the trust had paid thousands of pounds, including £82,000 to her solicitors on the issue of liability, £45,000 in interim payments which were “unlikely ever to be repaid”, and around £170,000 in their own legal costs.

The trust later brought contempt allegations against Ms White, who made a set of admissions the night before a court hearing – including that her condition had improved after a procedure in February 2018. She admitted making “false claims” in May and June 2018, including that “if she did not use a crutch she was only able to hobble” and “she could walk for 10-20 steps before needing to stop and rest”.

“The falsehoods propagated by Ms White and admitted to by her go far beyond exaggeration,” Mr Justice Ritchie said. The judge told Ms White: “You have been dishonest in the way that you misled many experts during your clinical negligence claim and that dishonesty was serious and substantial.

“Worse, you continued that dishonesty in your witness statement despite being shown the surveillance evidence which had exposed your dishonesty. Therefore you showed no insight, understanding or remorse in doing so.”

He added that Ms White’s case had brought “additional expense” to the NHS where “the taxpayer has limited resources which are better used elsewhere”. Noting Mrs White had apologised in court he added: “Your dishonest actions undermined the administration of justice and justice itself."

Ms White will be eligible to be released after serving half her sentence, the judge added.