Former practice manager Yvonne Bartram says ‘time for my side of the story to be told’ following end of court proceedings over Littleport Medical Centre cash
- Credit: Archant
A Littleport woman –who rose from being a GP receptionist to a £100,000 a year partner -has spoken of the moment her world collapsed after she ‘borrowed’ tens of thousands of pounds.
Yvonne Bartram’s 25 year career ended abruptly in 2010 when doctors at St George’s medical centre, Littleport, discovered she had taken £90,000 from the practice finances.
She describes it as a case of miscalculating her entitlements as a senior partner and says she immediately offered to repay it when she realised: the medical partners thought differently.
After many months discussing whether it was a civil or criminal matter the police were called and Mrs Bartram eventually found herself in the dock at Cambridge Crown Court.
Three years were to emerge before the case began its legal journey and it was three years after that – in October last year- when she appeared in court.
She says she changed her plea to guilty on the second day after being told she had breast cancer and was in need for urgent treatment.
Mrs Bartram received a two year suspended sentence after Judge Hawkesworth told her: “It was a terrible breach of trust and had it not been for your present state of health you would have been going straight to prison.”
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In December she was back before the same judge for a Proceeds of Crime Hearing but was ordered only to repay £600.
“Why?” she said. “Because I have nothing; no assets apart from a white van and that is valued at £600. They interrogated my finances and came to the conclusion I have nothing - unless I die or win the lottery or have an inheritance.”
Mrs Bartram insists the case could have been settled much earlier if the surgery had accepted her offer to enter an Independent Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) which would have guaranteed them receiving an agreed percentage of the money.
She says the stumbling block was about the amount she owed – she says it was £30,000 less than the £100,000 being demanded.
She says the financial pressure on her mounted after a fire opposite her Wisbech Road home at the former Murfitt factory meant she suddenly had to re-home her prized stock of 18 horses. It was a costly business.
Back at the surgery she said that “I over estimated the business forecasts and made a mistake. As soon as I got a set of accounts I went to the then senior partner and told him. I knew I could repay what I owed.
“I was earning good money and at one stage over £100,000 a year through profit sharing.”
Mrs Bartram says she was instrumental in building the practice and took an equity stake in 2003 with the move to the new medical centre.
“When I became managing partner the former partnership had collapsed and the remaining GP was on his own. I said ‘trust in me and I will build a new practice’” she said.
“I wasn’t a partner until we moved. I also put money in because we were in a helluvah state.
“People of Littleport watched as the practice then grew – I was not a doctor but the second most senior partner. As you can imagine as the practice expanded this went down like a lead balloon with some doctors.”
She said: “The judge seemed to think I had defrauded the NHS – but I hadn’t. I overdrew on my capital account -by a large amount I admit – but it had no affect on Littleport surgery or the patients.
“Why would I destroy something I had helped to build?”
Mrs Bartram said people might believe that with the small amount she must now repay “they are thinking she got away with it. But it’s not like that.
“I would have paid the money back, as a partner, had I the opportunity to do so and had they not inflated the figure.
“I tried to go into an IVA when I left the practice; I did put it in motion and we were working with an insolvency practitioner but it failed because I would not agree to £104,000.”
Mrs Bartram said she received numerous threats prior to the trial and claims that there was a sustained social media campaign against her.
She said: “The person who did it selected every area of my life – including horse magazines and websites- and published links every time my case was mentioned. “Well now its time to put the record straight.”
Mrs Bartram said: “Yes, I made a mistake but that’s all I did. I started from nothing and love the people of Littleport, I love working with them and even at one time served as a parish councillor.
“When the chance came for a new medical centre I found the finance for it. I project managed it – and everything I did it was for the village.
“I deserved a second chance but wasn’t given one.”
Mrs Bartram, in recovery after treatment for cancer, has no intention of leaving Littleport but for now is concentrating on getting back to fitness.
“I still go down the village- of course,” she said. “When I go to the Co-op though it can be one of two reactions; I get loads of hugs or I can clear it.”
During her trial prosecutor Duncan O’Donnell said until the dishonesty was discovered she had been “trusted implicitly” by her colleagues.
Judge Hawkesworth added: “An attack on funds of a community medical centre is very serious indeed.”
Dr Matt Stephens, one of the partners at the medical centre, said forensic accountants had been unable to trace where the missing money actually went.
He said: “Yvonne is the mother of TV’s ‘Shipping Wars’, Laurie Bartram. It is believed some went into the haulage business which Laurie now owns.
“Yvonne Bartram runs Elysian Horses in Cambridgeshire and admitted in a police interview read out in court to needing the money to fund her horses and the haulage business.”
However in two extensive interviews with this newspaper Ray Bartram insisted his finances had always been separate from his wife’s.
And he said the first he knew that anything was wrong was when he went out to dinner one night with his wife – after doctors had confronted her about the missing money- when she told him.