If overseas patients cost us £5 each, the fraud figures reported by Duncan Geddes in the Times 2nd November 2017 costs us £20 each. This is starting to add up… Then there is the unnecessary expense of litigation which could be replaced by no fault compensation, but the payback time would be beyond the horizon of short-sighted politicians. Duncan also reported October 25th on the wasted operation time opportunity… and the critical condition of the NHSreactor is so near meltdown that many staff are now evading coming, or evacuating. Managers admit they are serious about air B&B for the health service discharges…
Fraud is costing the NHS in England more than £1 billion a year, according to a watchdog established yesterday.
The NHS Counter Fraud Authority has promised to develop new strategies for fighting fake prescription claims and other “despicable” practices.
Its analysis found that £1.25 billion a year — just over 1 per cent of the English NHS budget — was lost to bribery, corruption and fraud.
Patients who falsely claim exemption from the prescription charge have been estimated to cost the taxpayer more than £200 million a year, with only £23 million recouped in fines. The latest figures put an official total on the cost of fraud for the first time, but the agency has warned that the true amount could be even higher.
The research suggests that at least £200 million is lost to NHS staff, contractors and suppliers who cheat during the procurement of goods and services. Payroll fraud was estimated to cost £90 million a year and dentists were fraudulently claiming £70 million for work that had not been done.
Sue Frith, chief executive of the new watchdog, said: “People may think it is just a small amount but in large volumes it adds up and has an impact. It is criminal behaviour. It is despicable that people would even claim things they are not entitled to. This is money that should be spent on frontline patient care.”
Trevor Cosson, a former accountant at two NHS trusts in East Sussex, was jailed for five years and ordered to repay £2.2 million he had siphoned off to fund a property portfolio.
In 2014, Carol Ann Joyce, 63, of north Wales, was jailed for six months after travelling to different GP surgeries to obtain prescriptions for a painkiller to which she had become addicted.
Ms Frith conceded that the NHS needed to do more to prevent fraud but said that the new authority would help to improve detection rates. Contracts and safeguarding procedures will be reviewed and more investigators will be hired to collect evidence, she said.
Last year investigators successfully pursued cases worth £9.6 million, less than a hundredth of the estimated total lost to fraud.
The Counter Fraud Authority replaces NHS Protect, whose responsibility for security has been devolved to local health trusts. The new authority was formally launched yesterday as an independent body focusing entirely on fraud with a budget increase of about 10 per cent.
Behind the story
Like ministers’ existing £500 million crackdown on “health tourism”, fraud is an obvious villain to go after.
About a fifth of both problems are caused by patients themselves.
Wrongful claims for free prescriptions and dental treatment amount to £200 million, and £100 million of the health tourism bill is thought to be expats returning for care they should get abroad.
Camilla Cavendish opines: The NHS: Condition critical April 9th 2017 in The Times