Expanded NHS body ready to tackle violence against staff

13 Mar 03
The head of the NHS's newly beefed-up counter fraud and security agency has vowed to clamp down on violent assaults against staff in the sector after union claims that the number of incidents is on the rise.

14 March 2003

The head of the NHS's newly beefed-up counter fraud and security agency has vowed to clamp down on violent assaults against staff in the sector after union claims that the number of incidents is on the rise.

In an interview with Public Finance, Jim Gee, chief executive of the new NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service, said his team would take the same zero tolerance approach to violence as it has with fraud to secure the NHS against 'those who would attack it'.

Health minister Lord Hunt announced on March 14 that the expanded CFSMS would replace the existing Counter Fraud Service. As well as anti-fraud work, the new body will assume responsibility for the wider campaign to improve security across the NHS, such as reducing assaults on staff and other threats like 'baby snatching' from maternity units and drug theft.

While the merger of distinct anti-fraud and security responsibilities appears unusual, DoH ministers clearly believe they have found the right man to bolster their security programme.

Since he became head of the CFS in 1998, Gee has helped reduce fraud by patients and professionals in the NHS by

35%–40% – saving the service hundreds of millions of pounds – and secured a 99% successful prosecution rate in the process.

Gee told PF: 'We are determined to replicate our success in reducing fraud when applying security initiatives, using all appropriate measures such as the courts. We will not tolerate violence against staff, for example.'

Public service union Unison claimed that assaults on NHS staff are on the rise – up by two percentage points last year to 41% of all staff – and welcomed Gee's expanded role.

But John Richards, national officer at the union, warned: 'There is some unease about linking the security of staff and patients with counter fraud. Violence against staff is not invariably linked to traditional security concerns – aspects like bullying by co-workers must also be considered.'

Hunt said Gee and the new CFSMS chair, William Darling, the former leader of the National Association of Health Authorities, would be 'great assets' to the expanded CFSMS.

The unit's new remit will be underpinned by a 'substantial budget boost' that will increase the number of staff at the agency, Gee said. The cash will also be used to bolster training programmes to develop expertise in both counter fraud and security services.

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