Local NHS targets fraudsters in crackdown
9:25am 20th July 2011
People who falsely claim exemption on their prescription charges are being given a warning this week as NHS North Yorkshire and York begins its latest crackdown on local fraudsters.
Latest figures from NHS Protect (the national NHS counter fraud service) show the value of fraud and unlawful action against the health service in 2009/10 was over £10 million. In the same year there were 150 successful prosecutions nationwide with potential savings from completed investigations totalling over £4 million.
Primary care trusts have the power to recover unpaid fees and apply a penalty charge of £100 to patients who wrongly claim exemption from the £7.40 prescription charge, as well as other means-tested charges such as those made by opticians and dentists. Those who fail to pay the penalty or who repeatedly offend may be prosecuted in a Magistrates' Court and could be fined up to £2,500.
Between 2006 and 2011 counter fraud officers in North Yorkshire and York conducted over 7,500 exemption checks, issued 1,100 penalties and recovered over £18,000 from people wrongly claiming exemptions from NHS charges.
Now officers are starting a new wave of spot checks of prescriptions redeemed at pharmacies and GP practices across North Yorkshire and York. The money recovered goes back to the relevant local health budget. The penalty charge goes into the PCT's funds and is then spent on improving patient care.
Adrian Snarr, Director of Finance and Contracting at NHS North Yorkshire and York, said:
"Defrauding the NHS is a very serious matter. It deprives services of money that could otherwise be spent on staff, equipment and resources and it costs the taxpayer millions of pounds a year.
"By pursuing false claimants we hope we are sending a clear message to fraudsters and providing a deterrent.
"We also want to appeal to law abiding tax payers to report any concerns they may have to the NHS counter fraud specialists. This can be done in complete confidence and ultimately helps us to reduce a severe drain on our health system."
Anyone with a concern about NHS fraud should call the confidential NHS Fraud and Corruption Reporting Line on (freephone) 0800 028 40 60. You can also report online here or speak to a Counter Fraud Specialist in your local NHS trust.
Information on who is exempt from paying prescription charges is available on request from any pharmacy. Patients in doubt should ask for advice. It is also available online here
Those exempt from charges include people aged 60 or over, pregnant women and nursing mothers, and people on a low income who are claiming certain benefits.
From April 2011, NHS Protect took on national responsibility for leading work to protect NHS staff and resources from crime.
NHS Protect tackles crimes against the NHS that would otherwise undermine the effectiveness and ability of the health service to meet the needs of patients and professionals. It has responsibility for tackling fraud, bribery, violence, corruption, criminal damage, theft and other unlawful action such as market fixing.
For more information click here
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