February 2, 2021 5.20 pm This story is over 39 months old

Ex Lincoln hospital worker stole NHS equipment to sell on eBay

He was trying to pay off his spiralling debts

A former employee stole thousands of pounds worth of medical equipment and tools from Lincoln County Hospital to sell on eBay, Lincoln Crown Court was told on Tuesday.

John O’Keefe, who was employed in the hospital’s estates workshop, took items including a cardiac heart rhythm monitor and a medical gas alarm, together with tools and items such as locks which he sold using the name “Trusted Trader 77”.

Lauren Butt, prosecuting, said that work colleagues of O’Keefe became suspicious due to the number of items being stolen and began compiling a list of things that were taken.

O’Keefe’s downfall came in November 2019 when he took a drill from a colleague’s work cupboard.

Miss Butt said: “The drill was hospital property. Colleagues took to social media to find the drill and it was established that a drill which matched the one stolen was sold on eBay by someone selling under the name Trusted Trader 77.

“Other items listed on their page were items which could only have come from the hospital trust.

“An investigator looked at the eBay seller’s page and saw, for example, a door lock, the photograph of which had been taken on a desk identical to the defendant’s work desk.

“The defendant was arrested at Lincoln County Hospital and a search was carried out of his home address. In one of the bedrooms a large amount of hospital-related items were found.

“When he was interviewed he admitted the Trusted Trader 77 account was his. He said he had been selling electrical items which he had taken. He claimed some of the items had been abandoned and others he had taken from skips.”

O’Keefe, 43, of Grange Road, Bracebridge Heath, admitted theft from his employer between October 1 and November 23, 2019. The value of the items stolen was £8,215.

Hannah Edwards, in mitigation, said that O’Keefe got himself heavily into debt and his life spiralled out of control following the death of his father.

“He was suffering from severe stress. He was supplied with medication and says he was not able to think rationally at the time.

“His debts reached £17,000. He is ashamed to say that he couldn’t see any lawful means to handle his debt. He is incredibly remorseful and ashamed. He realises his actions were wrong.”

Miss Edwards said O’Keefe has been referred to counselling for his stress and has set up an IVA plan to deal with his debts.

O’Keefe was given a six month jail sentence suspended for a year with 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days. He was also given a three month night-time curfew.

Judge John Pini QC told him: “You got into serious debt by spending beyond your means. The victim here is the taxpayer.

“The NHS needs all the equipment it can get. Resources are scarce and activities like this can impact on patient care.”