Clampdown on eye test fraud

22 Feb 01
New checks to stop people fraudulently seeking free eye tests and vouchers have been announced by health minister Lord Hunt.

23 February 2001

The measures came into force in England on February 19 and are expected to save millions of pounds currently being lost through patient fraud in the NHS.

Hunt said: 'Every pound the NHS loses to fraud is a pound less spent on patient care. It is unacceptable for millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to be wasted in this way and we cannot allow this to happen.

'The new checks are an important part of the government's strategy to reduce all fraud and corruption to an absolute minimum.'

Patients who claim they are entitled to NHS sight tests or vouchers will now be asked for proof that they do not have to pay. This proof could be in the shape of an income support payment book or through the NHS Low Income Scheme. Anyone found to have claimed incorrectly will face a penalty charge of up to £100 and possible prosecution.

Jim Gee, director of the NHS counter fraud service, which helped set up the scheme, said: 'The new checks will not affect those who honestly claim help with the cost of optical services, but they will deter the minority of people who make false claims.

'Practitioners will be applying these checks very thoroughly in their surgeries to make sure that we are clear whether or not evidence of entitlement has been seen.'

The new point-of-service checks are now part of optometrists' terms under the General Ophthalmic Service, and will be in line with the government's document Countering fraud in the NHS published in December 1998.

Alan Parkhurst, president of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, said: 'Dispensing opticians will wish to be associated with this initiative. It benefits us all to see NHS funds being properly spent in the interests of both patients and the taxpayer.'


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