Former builder used fake CVs to become an NHS boss and make £1million

“Jon Andrewes was appointed chairman of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) ahead of 117 other candidates. 

No one on the high-powered panel, who conducted two interviews with Mr Andrewes, had any doubts they had chosen the right man for the job.”

[Read on – Owl]

Paul Bracchi

His CV — experience aside — pointed to a man of considerable intellect and academic prowess; the letters after his name alone took up much of the alphabet… joint first-class honours and master of philosophy degrees from Bristol University… an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from Edinburgh… a PhD from Plymouth University… a diploma from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

His ‘outwardly prestigious life’ was based on lies. Jon Andrewes, 67, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud after he told ‘staggering lies’ about his academic qualifications and experience to win a string of top-level positions in the NHS

‘It is a privilege to have the opportunity to work with the communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to provide outstanding health and social care services,’ he said in a statement shortly before taking up his duties in 2015. ‘I will listen and engage with patients, clinicians and the wider community to improve care for the people we serve.’

The RCHT has a budget of about £380 million and employs 5,000 staff at three hospitals.

It was the latest in a string of top-level positions Mr Andrewes held in the NHS. He also chaired the Torbay NHS Care Trust where he worked for the best part of a decade.

But Andrewes should never have got any of these jobs. For his qualifications were made up.

How a man who started life as a builder before gaining a diploma in social work — his only real academic achievement — rose to such prominence in the NHS on the back of fabricated credentials is a source of continuing embarrassment.

Andrewes, 67, was forced to quit claiming ill-health a year into his tenure at Cornish Trust, prosecuted for fraud and obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception and jailed for two years.

Only now, after the final chapter in the scandal unfolded this week, can the full story behind what the original trial judge at Exeter Crown Court called his ‘outwardly prestigious life’ — based on a ‘series of staggering lies’ — be revealed.

Those ‘lies’ helped him earn £1 million (before tax) in 12 years, not just from the NHS but also from a number of charities he ran; most of it has been spent. Any available assets (more than £96,000) were confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act two years ago.

‘He got away with it for a very long time’: The ex-builder rose to prominence in the NHS on the back of fabricated credentials and made £1million in 12 years. Jon Andrewes worked for the Royal Cornwall Trust.

But the Court of Appeal has now reversed this decision, arguing that Andrewes had given ‘full value’ for the salary and benefits he received — even though he had obtained the roles fraudulently — and should not be punished twice for the same crimes.

Which all rather begs the question: did he actually need any qualifications to do his job in the first place?

Andrewes has now been released from prison. His wife Penny has stood by him. They live in Devon.

Had the Court of Appeal not ruled in his favour, Andrewes would have had to relinquish the profits from the sale of their previous house, along with premium bonds in his name, an insurance payout for a Seat Leon car, and a barge he owns in Amsterdam; he would have also had to cash in a pension plan.

There are those, no doubt, who think he should have been made to repay every penny, considering he worked for the NHS.

Others, however, including former colleagues, believe he has already paid a heavy price; the sentence he received (some child sex offenders have spent not much longer behind bars) combined with the public humiliation is punishment enough, they say.

His motive, according to someone who used to work with him, was not simply financial but borne out of ‘frustration with people less able than himself getting promotions because he did not have the right piece of paper’.

Either way, the case highlights just how far lying on your CV can get you although few could have matched the sheer chutzpah of Jon Andrewes.

The key date in this cautionary tale for employers is 2004. That was the year Andrewes was made chief executive of St Margaret’s Hospice, a palliative care charity in Taunton, Somerset, on an initial salary of £75,000-a-year.

From our inquiries, based on information supplied to us by a former member of staff, we know that he was challenged during his interview about why his name was spelt differently (‘Andrewes’ and ‘Andrews’ and ‘Jon’ and ‘John’) on his birth certificate, passport and driving licence.

He said this was because he had been adopted, something we have been unable to verify.

In any event, copies of the documents with the different spellings circled were sent to the Criminal Records Bureau, part of the Home Office (now the Disclosure and Barring Service) which confirmed that Andrewes did not have a criminal record.

There was no suspicion Andrewes had invented his qualifications, which would have been more difficult to check quickly back then in the days before there was an array of companies offering specialist checking services.

So there was no reason not to make the appointment; a decision the hospice would come to bitterly regret with hindsight.

At the time, his application seemed hugely impressive.

And it was true that, after a spell as a builder, he had actually been legitimately employed in a number of senior management positions in the public and charity sectors after working as a social worker and probation officer in the Seventies and Eighties.

One of the groups was the national environmental regeneration charity Groundwork Trust.

‘He came across as very knowledgeable and competent,’ recalled David Shepperd, former head of legal services at Plymouth City Council, who liaised closely with Andrewes on a council-funded green project. ‘He was an affable, nice guy to deal with.’

Andrewes combined his job at the Groundwork Trust (1998-2004) with a voluntary role leading Brixham 21, a campaign credited with bringing millions of pounds of investment to the port near Torbay.

The Court of Appeal ruled this week that Andrewes can keep his earnings arguing that he had given ‘full value’ for the salary and benefits he received — even though he had obtained the roles fraudulently. Andrewes was also appointed chairman of the Torbay NHS Care Trust .

‘Under Jon’s leadership we achieved a hell of a lot for Brixham,’ said Chris Lomas, a former Liberal Democrat councillor.

‘He got things done. I always thought of him as a successful high-flying, high achiever. I don’t agree with anyone forging qualifications to get ahead of somebody else.

‘I suspect he got frustrated with people less able than himself getting promotions because he did not have the right piece of paper.’

This is precisely what happened, it seems, after Andrewes was installed as CEO of St Margaret’s, which he used as a springboard to launch his career in the NHS, taking up a string of influential, high-profile, non-executive roles he was able to carry out in conjunction with his responsibilities at the hospice.

He was appointed chairman of Torbay NHS Care Trust in 2007 before stepping down in 2015 to take up the same position at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust.

Andrewes received a net income from the former of £62,156 and £33,687 from the latter. He was also paid an additional £20,000 for chairing, on a temporary basis, another Devon health partnership in 2013.

Total income from NHS during this period: £115,843.

Still there was no suspicion of the ‘staggering lies’ on his CV.

At St Margaret’s, he was ‘charming and personable,’ by all accounts, even though he had requested, rather loftily, that everyone address him as ‘Dr Andrewes’. Anyone who has a PhD is entitled to use that title.

‘He got away with it for a very long time,’ said the former member of staff. She compared Andrewes to Frank Abagnale, the legendary U.S. fraudster whose exploits were turned into the movie Catch Me If You Can.

That may seem like an exaggeration but Andrewes did more than just embellish his CV, he practically created a new identity, which was about to dramatically unravel.

Irregularities in the way grants from the Department of Health were obtained and spent on building projects at the hospice had led to an internal investigation at St Margaret’s which, eventually, resulted in two former members of staff pleading guilty to fraud last year.

During this process, clinical director Ann Lee discovered Jon Andrewes’s CV on computer records at St Margaret’s. Or should we say his three CVs.

Key dates and career details on his original CV for the chief executive’s job at St Margaret’s were significantly different from the CV he used to become chairman of Torbay NHS Care Trust, which was markedly different again from the CV he submitted to get the same position at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust.

It was almost as if Jon Andrewes was three different people.

The discrepancies uncovered by Ann Lee, who has now taken over as chief executive at St Margaret’s, were brought to the attention of the police and the NHS anti- fraud team.

None of the universities Andrewes claimed to have received degrees from, they discovered, had any record of his attendance.

Much of his employment history had also been re-written so it included stints at the Home Office and HM Revenue & Customs in 1969 — when he would have been only 16.

‘It beggars belief that no due diligence was carried out when he was appointed to these roles in the NHS,’ says an NHS source.

Jon Andrewes announced he was retiring early from the NHS in 2016. The following year he was in the dock at Exeter Crown Court.

‘Your outwardly prestigious life was based upon a lie, and more accurately a series of staggering lies,’ the judge told him before passing sentence.

‘They were repeated lies about your education and employment background and your experience, lies by which you obtained responsible positions which you at least probably, if not certainly, would not otherwise obtained, positions in which honesty and integrity were essential qualities. Of course, because of your fraud, you received an income you should not have received.

‘Above all, what you did means that you were performing responsible roles which you should not have been performing and inevitably that causes real damage to the public’s confidence in the organisations which you deceived.’

On the Court of Appeal’s decision, a spokesperson from St Margaret’s Hospice, said: ‘We are disappointed that Mr Andrewes appeal has been upheld, but are pleased that this final hearing brings this matter to a close.

‘St Margaret’s Hospice has moved on and is focused on ensuring that our patients and their families across Somerset continue to receive compassionate end of life care and support when and where they need it most, particularly at this challenging time.

Jon Andrewes has now embarked on a new life running a curtains and blinds company in South Devon with wife Penny.

‘I’m sorry he doesn’t want to talk about this,’ she said when she answered the door of their bungalow. ‘I understand why you’ve come but, I’m sorry, we’ve been through enough.’

NHS Improvement, which appointed Andrewes, said ‘the range of checks necessary for these type of appointments’ had been expanded in the wake of the controversy.

Considering how easily he fooled his bosses, the question is: How many others like Jon Andrewes are still out there?


Is local democracy dead? – West Country Bylines

Mike Temple, in the new online publication “West Country Bylines” describes East Devon Alliance (EDA‘s) growth, from grassroots campaign group, to heading the dynamic coalition of councillors now leading EDDC. He also raises the new planning challenges communities face.

Mike Temple 

Ever felt powerless to prevent unwanted development? Ever thought you weren’t being heard by your local council? Ever given up in despair? Join the millions across the country who feel that local democracy is dead, that power lies in the hands of a rich elite and their friends and backers, and that “you stand no chance against that”.

But isn’t there hope? Surely there’s a glimmer of this rare commodity somewhere?

In 2012, the Coalition government changed the planning system: the national planning policy framework was based on a “presumption in favour of development” that, especially in the context of the austerity programme, favoured large developers and left councils and local communities vulnerable. A year before this, the government had introduced the Localism Act – its very title a piece of Orwellian newspeak, as what it often turned out to mean was rule by powerful vested interests.

Such a group, unelected and, in the main, representing large property developers, was actually set up at East Devon District Council (EDDC) as early as 2007. Chaired by a leading Conservative councillor and called the East Devon Business Forum (EDBF), it was described by the chief executive as “a joint body with the council”. During this time one Independent councillor, Claire Wright, was elected and bravely tried to call the ruling party to account.

From 2009, many highly contentious planning developments were approved, including Hill Barton Business Park (09/0282/MOUT) and Greendale Business Park (09/1195/MOUT), where the existing business parks were massively enlarged. The owners were the leading members of the EDBF.

From 2010 to 2013, two highly unpopular developments were proposed in the Sidmouth area: one for the sale of part of a public park and council office buildings at Knowle in Sidmouth (16/0872/MFUL), and the other an industrial/business park development on an area of outstanding natural beauty and flood plain between Sidford and Sidbury (18/1094/MOU).

A local campaign, supported by the town’s main community groups and called ‘Save Our Sidmouth’, was formed and in November 2012, there was a march along the esplanade of about 4,000 people, which included many people from other parts of the district who were also affected by harmful developments. The protest even attracted the attention of the Telegraph, which ran a story under the headline Sidmouth mans the barricades.

Photo by Peter Nasmyth

Soon after this, a number of people from across the district formed a campaign group called the East Devon Alliance (EDA). In March 2013, a Telegraph sting exposed the leader of the business forum, Councillor Graham Brown, as a “councillor for hire”. He was quoted as saying: “If I turn a green field into an estate and I’m earning a developer two or three million, then I ain’t doing it for peanuts.” He was forced to resign.

In 2015, the EDA entered candidates in the district elections and won 10 seats; one member of the EDA was also elected at county level in 2017. The EDA campaigned vigorously for transparency, accountability and the reform of local governance. It also championed efforts to save beds in community hospitals, as well as pushing for affordable housing and the adoption of a green agenda.

In the 2019 district elections, disaffection with the Conservatives enabled many other Independent, LibDem and Green candidates across the district to break the massive and long-held Conservative majority on the council: 20 Independents, 8 LibDems and 2 Greens were elected, along with 11 EDA Independent candidates, all of the latter topping the poll in their wards. An initial coalition of Conservatives and others under Ben Ingham (a former Independent who has since returned to the Conservative Party) failed to command support, and earlier this year a majority administration of non-Conservatives, led by Paul Arnott of the EDA, was formed.

One of its first actions has been to recommend the council’s withdrawal from the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan, which has proposed the building of 53,260 houses in the designated area, over 24,000 of them in east Devon. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England had previously commissioned its own independent housing needs report (Devon Housing Needs Evidence 2018 ), which showed that the local plan figures for housing in east Devon had been overestimated by about a third. The new administration has also set up new portfolios (eg of democracy and transparency, and of climate action) which promise a more democratic future.

So it’s a big thank you to those who have given us some hope.

However, local democracy is also under challenge from the business-led quango, the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership. And an even greater threat is posed by the government’s latest planning proposals, already described as a ‘developers’ charter’, under which elected councils’ powers will be significantly reduced. If you live in a ‘growth’ zone, for instance, neither you nor your council will have any say at all over planning. Developers, who as a business group have given more than £11m to the Conservative Party in less than a year, will be free to build as they wish.

Clearly, there is now more need than ever for local people to engage in the democratic process.

Save our Sidmouth protest Photo by Peter Nasmyth

Britain’s coronavirus death rate is down, but the unanswered question is why

Why has the mortality rate for coronavirus decreased in the UK? The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre has analysed data from more than 10,000 patients admitted to intensive care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and shown that the 28-day mortality of patients admitted to ICU has fallen from 43.5% before the April peak to 34.5% after the peak – a decrease of nine percentage points.

Charlotte Summers 

Some have suggested this may be due to “herd immunity” or that over time we have learned how to successfully treat this disease. But there’s scant evidence to support these claims. So what’s going on?

Emerging data suggests that some people who have not been exposed to Sars-Cov-2 have a type of white blood cell (T cell) that recognises the virus because it has previously been exposed to other coronaviruses, such as the common cold. Whether these cross-reactive T cells prevent or lessen the impact of infection in people with coronavirus is not yet known. It’s an intriguing preliminary finding, but there’s currently no evidence that we have herd immunity in the UK.

Studies have consistently shown that fewer than 20% of the UK population have antibodies to coronavirus in their blood, and we don’t fully understand the mechanisms by which our immune systems deal with this new virus effectively.

The term herd immunity is ill-defined and unhelpful. It suggests that we can now relax our adherence to measures such as social distancing and facial coverings. But this is no time for complacency. We’re heading towards a winter that will probably be challenging, and we all need to continue to do our part in reducing viral transmission. The most likely contributor to decreased mortality is the same reason we’ve seen a reduction in the number of Covid cases: the UK population has adhered to social distancing, wearing face coverings, working from home and regular hand hygiene.

Have we got better at treating Covid-19? As much as I would like to say yes, my answer is “not sure”. Many clinical management approaches have been proposed for coronavirus, such as hydroxychloroquine, non-invasive ventilation and vitamin supplements, and many have suggested that given the pressing need for treatments, we should use these as soon as possible. This has resulted in patients across the globe being administered therapies for which there is little evidence of benefit.

During the pandemic there has been immense pressure to circumvent our usual pathways for safely discovering treatments. In the face of a devastating disease, the desire to act quickly to find new interventions is unsurprising. The controversy surrounding hydroxychloroquine is a good example of this. Despite increasing evidence that the drug is not effective in the treatment of people who have developed Covid-19, or in preventing the development of the disease in people exposed to the virus, people in countries such as Brazil and the US continue to receive this therapy.

There have also been many questions about the optimum way to support people who are having difficulty breathing. Many people have declared their approach to be the correct onebut there is currently little evidence suggesting that non-invasive ventilation is superior to invasive mechanical ventilation when treating patients with severe cases of Covid-19.

The use of unproven therapies outside clinical trials should concern us all, and has been actively discouraged by the UK’s chief medical officers. There is no drug or therapy that does not have side-effects or adverse consequences, so every time we take this approach, patients are being exposed to risk in the absence of evidence.

Worse, every time we administer an unproven therapy outside a clinical trial, we are wasting an opportunity to learn something that may help save many lives. Evidence suggests that patients enrolled in randomised clinical trials, or who are treated in hospitals with high levels of research activity, have better clinical outcomes than those who are not.

There are many coronavirus therapies that are currently going through rigorous clinical trials. The National Institute for Health Research-funded Recovery trial has recruited more than 12,000 hospitalised patients with Covid-19 since March, and has already provided evidence that the anti-inflammatory dexamethasone improves survival in hospitalised patients needing oxygen or mechanical ventilation, whereas the antivirals hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir-ritonavir are ineffective.

We also have evidence from clinical trials in the US that remdesivir may be an effective antiviral, as well as preliminary data that inhaled interferon-beta-1a might be of benefit, a finding that now needs confirming in large clinical trials, and the Recovery-RS trial is seeking to determine the best way to support the breathing of patients with Covid-19.

During a pandemic, people look for certainty. But science doesn’t work like that. We raise hypotheses, we test them, we refine them, and we repeat the process. This takes time, and although we are making astonishing progress during the coronavirus pandemic, much uncertainty remains. Facts are merely things that have yet to be proven untrue, and people who say they know the answers but can’t provide evidence should be treated with scepticism.

At the moment, we can’t be certain why the mortality associated with Covid-19 has fallen in the UK, but there are many people working on understanding why, and on making it fall still further. In the meantime, we all need to continue doing our best to reduce viral transmission while this important work is still going on.

• Dr Charlotte Summers is a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge