November is Fraud Awareness Month and it also coincides with International Fraud Awareness Week, which runs from Sunday 13 to Saturday 19 November.
Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (LPFT), United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) and Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) are working together to eradicate NHS fraud, bribery, and corruption.
The aim is to raise awareness about how damaging fraud can be and highlight simple steps that can be taken to prevent it. In the NHS, fraud results in the loss of precious resources that can directly affect patient care. There are 123 different types of fraud against the NHS.
False claims – This can range from patients claiming for free treatment when they are not entitled to it, to NHS professionals claiming money for services they have not provided.
Procurement fraud – This relates to frauds involving the purchasing of goods and services by an NHS organisation.
Misrepresentation of qualifications or experience – This occurs when someone applying for a job claims to have qualifications or experience they do not actually have. This is particularly serious if it occurs in senior and medical positions.
Sickness absence fraud – This happens when a staff member works for a secondary employer whilst on sick leave with the NHS and falsely claims they are unfit for work.
Timesheet fraud – This happens when staff falsify their timesheets, for example to obtain payment for hours they have not actually worked.
Local Counter Fraud Specialists Peter Riches (ULHT) and Taelor Martin (LPFT and LCHS) are committed to clamping down on those committing fraud and are using November as a great way to raise awareness with staff and the public.
Pete and Taelor are employed by Counter Fraud Plus, which has a counter fraud collaborative agreement with the three trusts and with Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust and Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. During 2021/22 the team’s investigations saw:
- Nine disciplinary sanctions imposed on NHS staff (temporary and permanent members of the teams)
- £26,985 value of fraud recovered
- One criminal sanction imposed
- £107,701 value of fraud prevented
- Two professional body sanctions imposed
- One sanction imposed from another external enforcement agency
- Five resignations resulting from a fraud referral
- £8,095 value of fraud recovered via the National Fraud Initiative.
Peter said: “All three trusts in Lincolnshire are committed to eradicating NHS fraud, which is estimated to cost the NHS more than £1.1 billion every year. This is taxpayer’s money which is being directed away from patient care and into the hands of criminals.”
Taelor added: “All referrals made to us are investigated thoroughly and we assess each case to determine the most appropriate sanction. This may include criminal prosecution, disciplinary sanctions, referrals to a professional body and recovery of the defrauded monies.”
Paul Matthew, ULHT’s Director of Finance and Digital, said: “Fraud Awareness Month provides us with the opportunity to showcase our commitment to reducing the impact of fraud on the NHS. To achieve this, we all need to work together. We employ the services of a dedicated Local Counter Fraud Specialist, who ensures that all those who commit fraud against the Trust are held to account. Thankfully, those who commit fraud against the NHS are a small minority; however, their actions have a serious impact on us all as it takes away vital resources intended for patient care. I would encourage anybody with any suspicions of fraud to report it. No matter how small. Allegations will always be dealt with appropriately and professionally.”
Sam Wilde, LCHS’s Director of Finance and Business Intelligence, said: “It is vital that we remain on high alert for the possibility of attempts to commit fraud against the NHS. Here at LCHS we are committed to tackling NHS fraud and minimising its effects. Our nominated Local Counter Fraud Specialist is always on hand to assist with any queries and conduct professional investigations into allegations of fraud, and I would encourage anybody to reach out to her should they have any fraud concerns.”
Mark Platts, LPFT’s Director of Finance and Information said: “Fraud continues to be a real challenge for the NHS. It has the potential to divert much needed resources away from patient care. As a Trust, we are dedicated to reducing NHS fraud and have a nominated Local Counter Fraud Specialist who is committed to this cause. But we cannot combat fraud without help from our staff and our patients and carers, and we urge them to keep raising concerns with us no matter how small you may think it is. Increasing fraud awareness is really important and this Fraud Awareness Month really draws attention to this vital cause.”
Staff and members of the public are encouraged to play their part in protecting NHS resources and report any suspicions of fraud.
You can also call the NHS Fraud and Corruption Reporting Line on 0800 028 40 60 or visit www.cfa.nhs.uk/reportfraud.