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Fraud costs NHS £7bn - enough to pay for 250,000 nurses

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Hundreds of thousands of additional nurses could be employed if the health service reduced the amount of money it loses annually through fraud, a report suggests.

The former head of NHS Counter Fraud Services has warned in a report that fraud is costing the NHS £5bn a year, with a further £2bn lost to financial errors.

The amount lost to fraud alone could pay for nearly 250,000 nurses, according to the report. It is the focus of an investigation by the Panorama programme, which is due to be broadcast tonight on BBC One at 8.30pm.

Jim Gee, co-author of the Portsmouth University study, was director of NHS Counter Fraud Services for eight years until 2006.

The £7bn estimate is based on a comparison with global figures, which suggest average losses to fraud and error of around 7% of healthcare budgets. It is 20 times higher than the figure recorded in the government’s annual fraud indicator report.

“We need to get on with tackling the problem and maximising resources available for proper patient care”

Jim Gee

Mr Gee, who is currently director of counter fraud services at accountancy firm BDO LLP, identified key types of fraud as non-payment of prescription charges by patients, medical professionals claiming for work they have not done and overcharging by contractors.

“We need to not be embarrassed, or in denial, about the possibility of fraud taking place in the NHS,” he told Panorama.

“We need to get on with tackling the problem, minimising its cost, maximising resources available for proper patient care.”

However, the Department of Health has said it “does not recognise” the figures in the report.

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These shocking findings highlight that nothing has been done to tackle inefficiency and waste.

Peter Carter

“Instead, frontline staff and services have suffered as the Health Service has sought to find its £3bn worth of savings a year,” he said.

“Tackling this fraud and dealing with its consequences would go a long way towards ensuring that the NHS can make savings without affecting patient care.”

Dr Carter added: “Rather than disputing the figures, the Department of Health should be taking immediate action.”

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Readers' comments (14)

  • ...or somebody else?

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  • tinkerbell

    Jodie's mate | 28-Mar-2014 8:12 am

    Agree. There's something decidedly fishy going on and it reeks of manipulation, can't quite get the handle on who's doing what to who, but no doubt it's not in our best interests.

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  • Me thinks the biggest fraud will be when they privatise the NHS.

    Lots of money can be claimed and signed away at the push of a pen by business men who know how to shimmee that hula skirt of empty cheques and 'enterprise initiatives' in the name of our health of course.

    And it will be done so slick it will make the great train robbery look like a bungled case of shoplifting.

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  • I should add that in my opinion this is no doubt what is happening already.

    Hope this goes unnoticed before them pesky Troll Laws come through. Could find myself in the slammer for airing my views ;) I wouldn't want to let my team down, only just got the DBS through after 10 weeks....

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