A former senior IT director has been sentenced to three and half years in prison for corruption after accepting payments for awarding a £950,000 IT contract.

Peter Lewis, former informatics director at the Royal Surrey County NHS Foundation Trust, was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on Friday, after pleading guilty to the charges in November.

In delivering the sentence, Judge Stephen Climie said senior NHS managers like Lewis held “the very purse strings that could ultimately prevent the pain, suffering and even the death of patients”.

Lewis was convicted of receiving payments of £89,945, doubling his yearly salary, from Richard Moxon, director of an IT company. The payments were made in return for awarding Moxon a £950,000 IT contract with Royal Surrey.

Moxon pleaded guilty to corruption charges in March last year and on Friday was also sentenced to 14 months in prison alongside Lewis.

Moxon was visibly shaken when the sentence was delivered. He received a less sentence than Lewis in recognition of his earlier guilty plea.

The two accused did not speak to each other when appearing in court, and Lewis did not respond when his sentence was read out. Both have been disqualified for holding the position of director for the next ten years.

Moxon’s lawyer argued for a suspended sentence, but Climie said it would not send the “right message to the public”.

In a statement after the sentencing, Royal Surrey deputy chief executive Alf Turner said that Lewis was “grossly abusing the trust placed in him as a senior manager within the NHS”.

“Bringing him to justice has been a lengthy and complex process.”

RSM fraud risk services director David Foley, who was brought in by the trust to investigate the fraud, said “what was particularly galling in this case was that the fraud involved taking money away from a vital public service”.

Crown prosecutor Paul Ozin told the court that that the deal was hatched at an Indian restaurant near Moxon’s home.

In 2011, Lewis awarded Moxon a year-long contract for a system that was supposed to record data generated in the hospital’s emergency department.

Moxon would submit invoices to the trust each month from different companies he controlled, and Lewis would pay them out. Each payment was beneath £15,000, allowing Lewis to sign them off without oversight.

In return, Moxon paid Lewis about £89,945, including covering a debt to a stable to which Lewis owed money.

The fraud was only uncovered when Lewis was investigated for favouring a recruitment agency, where he was having an extramarital affair with one of the employees.

A subsequent police investigation found that 40% of the software Moxon supplied was not required by the trust.

The court also heard that Lewis’ wife was the former chief executive at the trust, and previously held the position that Lewis then occupied.

For the financial year 2011-12, the trust declared a loss of £433,000 for the project involving Moxon’s software, with direct fraud relating to Moxon and Lewis' corruption accounting for £81,000.  

At the time of the guilty plea, Surrey Police released a statement, where detective sergeant Chris Rambour, of the Surrey and Sussex Economic Crime Unit, said that Lewis “chose to breach the trust placed in him by the NHS and to feather his own nest”.

Alf Turner, deputy chief executive at the trust, said “justice will be served”.

“Royal Surrey expects its staff to act with honesty and integrity at all times and will fully investigate any suspicions of wrong-doing. Mr Lewis broke these fundamentals.”