Fraud against the NHS will not be tolerated. That is the message from Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust fraud team.
The Trust has issued the warning as part of November’s Fraud Awareness Month (FAM) which coincides with International Fraud Awareness Week, which runs from November 12 to 18.
Fraud against the NHS takes many guises including patients attempting to avoid paying prescription charges by falsely claiming exemptions or claiming for travelling expenses that they are either not entitled to or have not incurred; staff may attempt to gain employment with false documentation, or claim pay for shifts they did not work or work elsewhere while off sick from the Trust; and contractors may exaggerate or falsify records of NHS work or goods provided.The Trust’s local counter fraud specialist Nicki Foley said: “The Trust is absolutely committed to ensuring that the public funds of the NHS are spent on caring for patients and not diverted into fraudsters’ pockets.
“All referrals made to us about suspicions of fraud are vigorously investigated and we will take appropriate action against people, which can involve criminal prosecution, disciplinary sanctions, referral to a professional body and recovery of the defrauded monies for example.”
One successful outcome for the Trust in the last 12 months was in regards to an investigation that led to a trial at Hull Crown Court. A medical recruitment agent and six other defendants were convicted of fraud act offences regarding the submission of a large number of fraudulent timesheets to divert resources away from patient care for their own personal gain. The trial lasted exactly four weeks and resulted in all seven defendants in the case being convicted, with three defendants receiving immediate custodial sentences and the remaining four receiving suspended prison sentences.
Nicki said: “Most people who work in and use the NHS are honest, but unfortunately there is a minority that tries to defraud it of its resources. Fraud is not just committed by staff but also patients and those who provide goods and services to the NHS.”
Nicki added: “Fraudsters are dealt with in the most appropriate manner and this could include prosecution through the criminal courts.
“We also seek to recover monies that have been defrauded and where NHS staff are involved the Trust will also take appropriate disciplinary action and refer them to their professional body for further possible sanctions.”
Marcus Hassall, the Trust’s director of finance, said: “It is vital that our precious NHS funds are used to deliver quality patient care within our organisation, and not directed into the pockets of fraudsters. Staff and members of the public are encouraged to play their part in protecting NHS resources and report any suspicions of fraud to us.”
Anyone wanting to report suspected fraud or corruption at the Trust can call the local counter fraud specialist on 03033 302994 or call the NHS fraud and corruption reporting line on 0800 028 40 60 or visit www.reportnhsfraud.nhs.uk