NHS tackles fraud with extra powers

18 Nov 99
The government's crackdown on fraud in the National Health Service started in earnest this week with new powers for the NHS Tribunal to disqualify practitioners who have committed fraud.

19 November 1999

At the opening of the country's first training centre for fraud-busting specialists in Reading, health minister Lord Hunt set out the new powers, which will ensure the disqualification of GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists who commit fraud. A new criminal offence and penalty charge aimed at patients will also help reduce the high levels of prescription fraud across the NHS.

Speaking to Public Finance on November 17, Hunt said the 'powerful package of measures' would ensure that the NHS was able to tackle fraud prevention effectively.

The Department of Heath's Counter-Fraud Inspectorate is undertaking the task of measuring actual levels of fraud across the NHS. There are no concrete figures on the scale of the fraud, which costs the NHS millions of pounds. Conservative estimates suggest prescription fraud alone tops £150m a year.

Hunt said the figures, expected next summer, would reinforce the case for more proactive fraud prevention: 'The figures will provide a powerful argument to ensure the NHS actively responds,' he said. 'People will be able to see that it is worth their while to invest time and money at local level. We expect the NHS to take this very seriously.'

The aggressive approach involves the training of specialist investigators, one for every health authority and trust in the country, with the emphasis on prevention.

The new regime, with detailed figures on the scale of fraud and specially trained investigators in regional teams, will be backed up by more than 500 NHS staff from all 99 health authorities and 375 trusts who will be trained in basic anti-fraud skills.

The training will be free to trusts this financial year but the government expects the NHS to contribute in the future. Hunt said: 'We will provide the initial training and offer continued support. However, this is a serious issue and we expect the NHS to ensure appropriate resources are targeted at the problem.'


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