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22.03.17

A year in the life of NHS Protect

James Robertson, media relations lead at NHS Protect, takes a look back over the past year of investigations by the body leading the national fight against NHS fraud. 

“Not much surprises me anymore” is something I often find myself saying to journalists, after a number of years working in NHS Protect’s press office. They have seen it all before, but I still occasionally hear the satisfying sound of a bored jaw dropping on a well-worn keyboard. When a one-word email comes straight back from a news agency, saying “Blimey!”, you know that a press release has hit the sweet spot, and the public are going to be interested too. 

My job is to publicise our successful prosecutions (and the great majority are successful) to deter others from trying to raid the NHS budget, and to raise general awareness – so that as many people as possible report their suspicions of fraud against the health service to our confidential Fraud and Corruption Reporting Line (FCRL). 

It is all money from the public purse and is, of course, meant for caring for and treating patients, not for fraudsters to treat themselves to free houses, cars, holidays, school fees and whatever bling they feel entitled to. 

If you are a details person with time to spare, you can always pay a visit to NHS Protect’s recent online archive (details below). If you are a “just tell me roughly” person without a spare afternoon to research NHS fraud, read on... 

Who found themselves before a court in the 12 months between March 2015 and March  2016? 

To name a few... a consultant radiologist. The CEO of a trust (with a CBE) plus hubby. A man who spent nine years pretending to be a doctor in senior clinical strategy roles jailed a second time for NHS fraud – for different CV lies. A mental health manager in cahoots with a ‘Clinical Leader of the Year’ GP. A dialysis equipment manager, three contractor pals and his partner. A group of perfusionists. A senior commissioner in mental health and learning disabilities. A couple, both managers. A locum doctor. An identity fraudster student nurse. Two ‘sisters’ who weren’t. A gynaecologist. An unqualified ‘senior cardiac physiologist’. A part-time cashier and her husband. A doctor working privately, on paid sick leave. A temporary worker diverting charity grants meant for patients. An IT specialist. A social therapist working in mental health. 

Where? 

NHS Protect’s fraud investigation remit is England, with support given to NHS Counter Fraud Services Wales. The fraud and related offences at court in the last year occurred all around England. The news was targeted by our press office to the right local and regional news outlets, as well as national media and key health titles such as NHE. 

What? 

My allotted word count isn’t enough to list all the types of health service fraud that were sentenced in the last year. They range from identity-related fraud, to timesheet and sickness fraud, CV fraud and contract and procurement frauds. The loss suffered by the NHS in a single fraud can range from a few pounds to hundreds of thousands, occasionally millions. We can never know exactly what percentage of the multi-billion pound annual health budget is defrauded, but even a small fraction of it is a great deal of money. 

Why? 

This is one of the hardest questions to answer about NHS fraud and we generally leave it to others to speculate about motivation. We work closely with TV documentary makers who are interested in teasing out the tangled human interest stories that wrap around every fraud case. Meanwhile, NHS Protect’s investigators focus on the specialist work of gathering the evidence of fraud, to build the strongest case so offenders can be brought to justice. NHS Protect also does a great deal of behind the scenes work, driven by intelligence gathering, to try and prevent the money being lost in the first place, advising NHS bodies how to tighten their systems. 

How you can help 

As our organisation evolves, we will continue to strengthen our intelligence-driven, preventative approach. In that endeavour, it is vital we continue to enlist the help of health service workers at every level and others in the health sector. As well as being open to ideas and suggestions about how best to tackle fraud, bribery and corruption, we ask that you continue to report all suspicions of possible NHS fraud, however unsure you feel, via the appropriate three channels: 

  • Acquaint yourself with your Local Counter Fraud Manager and keep them informed of any concerns
  • Telephone FCRL, powered by Crimestoppers on: 0800 028 4060
  • Report online at reportnhsfraud.nhs.uk 

The information you provide will be treated in complete confidence. Together we can turn the tables on those defrauding the NHS, and free up that lost money for patient care. A small minority can otherwise do considerable damage to our health system. 

NHS Protect’s highly-skilled and experienced investigators, working closely with our local partners, are ready to move in once we get that vital tip-off. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To access the NHS Protect online archive, visit:

W: www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/3378.aspx  

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