THEY lied and pocketed taxpayers’ money – and put hospital patients’ lives at risk.

Southampton couple Anne-Marie Read and Matthew Green faked job references to secure work in the NHS.

The fraudsters wrote each other references for health care positions they were not qualified to take, a court heard.

Read, 36, attended her first two days at a job at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, but then went off sick with “stress and anxiety” for nearly three months claiming more than £2,300 in wages – even asking for extra hardship payments.

Senior staff had already noticed that she lacked key skills for the job.

In the meantime, her boyfriend had written her another fake reference claiming he had once been her boss so she could secure work with Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard how she turned up for her new job while still signed off from Gosport – only to once again go off sick within days giving the same reasons.

The court heard how the pair, from Canterbury Avenue, Sholing, had slightly altered the surname of Read’s mother without her knowing and used her as a reference, creating a non-existent email and contact details for her.

Read also lied about gaining qualifications through Open University and Portsmouth University when neither had records of her having enrolled. In fact she had gained qualifications from the British School of Yoga.

While she was on sick leave from both jobs, she applied, unsuccessfully, for a third job at a hospital in Surrey.

Green, 26, the court heard, had worked for another NHS Trust in the past – but had been sacked for poor performance and attendance.

He too submitted a number of job applications – six to the Royal County Hampshire Hospital in Winchester and one, successfully, to a Surrey hospital.

Read lied in his reference that she had once been head matron and Green’s supervisor at Winchester.

Their deceit was only uncovered when Read’s job application was probed by health bosses.

The pair pleaded guilty in February to a string of fraud charges.

Green, the court heard, had endured a traumatic upbringing, suffered from depression and put on seven stone in weight while investigations and court proceedings were ongoing.

They had also suffered financial difficulties. Green took out a mortgage of £130,000 on a £136,000 home in 2006 only for the pair to be evicted in January with the property’s value having plummeted.

His attempts to land a job, the court heard, were to improve his mental wellbeing rather than being financially motivated.

Both had suffered from mental health problems but had been volunteering together at Mayfield Nursery charity in Southampton, which promotes mental health through horticulture.

Read, of previous good character, said she was “ashamed” of her behaviour.

She had suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 29 while her father and godmother had both passed away recently.

Recorder Ann Arnold said the pair had worked together “exposing patients who might have been under your care to the potential of risk and the health service to financial loss”.

Green clasped rosary beads and sobbed uncontrollably as he was handed a 12-month prison sentence. He was jailed because his crimes breached a suspended sentence he was serving for stealing from a former employer in 2011.

His partner also wept as she was given an eight-month prison term, suspended for 18 months, as well as 100 hours unpaid work.