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Minorities 'targeted' by NHS fraud squad


Scores of immigrant nurses have been investigated by NHS anti-fraud investigators amid claims black staff members have been unfairly “targeted”.

Over 13 times more black people than would be proportionate have been charged with offences by NHS Protect – the body responsible for cutting fraud in the health service – figures released to Nursing Times under the Freedom of Information Act suggest.

The figures have resulted in suggestions that immigration cases are prioritised above harder-to-investigate offences.

A total of 66 of the 98 people prosecuted in the year were recorded as “African Caribbean”. Black people make up only 5% of NHS staff, according to figures from the NHS Information Centre.

Some 57% of investigations launched by NHS Protect between April 2010 and March 2011 involved black and minority ethnic (BME) people. BME groups make up 16% of NHS employees.

In the previous year only about a quarter of those investigated had their ethnicity recorded, but the majority of those known were BME.

Half of the cases published on the body’s website involve a nurse or healthcare assistant.

The cases often concern an employee’s right to work in the UK. Although figures are not held on how many cases related to immigration offences, 59% of cases prosecuted “constitute frauds or criminal offences in which provision of false documentation has been a factor”.

The website for the NHS Counter Fraud Service - the body’s name before it was renamed NHS Protect in April - said it “aims to reduce NHS fraud to an absolute minimum, and maintain it at that level”.

Director of the centre for counter fraud studies at the University of Portsmouth Mark Button said fraud specialists in some public bodies were given “performance indicators” which could incentivise tackling relative simple immigration frauds. “It could be that they go to look for particular kinds of frauds,” he said.

He said it was important to prevent people getting work without the appropriate qualifications. However he said there were “limited resources” to tackle fraud and focusing on migrants could mean “other frauds will be less well investigated”.

Transitional lead for the NHS BME Network Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé said although fraud should not be “condoned” it was “extremely worrying that fraud by non-BME staff may be overlooked giving rise to the disproportionality observed”.

Don Flynn, director of the Migrant Rights Network campaigning group, said it seemed NHS Protect was “targeting largely black and ethnic minority staff” as they were “low hanging fruit”.

He said many people had the right to remain in the UK but not the right to work, due to an estimated 450,000-person backlog in the immigration system. Mr Flynn said many migrants are “quite strongly oriented to work in the health professions but are not documented”.

“The only way they can get employment is coming up with false bits of paper,” he said.

Royal College of Nursing England director Tom Sandford said: “I’m concerned about this over-representation. It reflects our analysis of case work which demonstrates that members from BME groups are over-represented in employment disputes.”

An NHS Protect spokesman said: “NHS Protect’s focus is the investigation and collection of evidence relating to allegations of fraud or corruption, not a person’s ethnicity. Before 2010/11 the collection of ethnicity information was not mandatory. However, since the introduction of a new case management system, NHS Protect has been able to collect it more easily and accurately.

“NHS Protect investigations involve not only NHS staff but other medical professionals and anyone else who may have committed fraud against the NHS. Our activities are largely determined by the referrals we receive, and we are obliged to follow up wherever a reported suspicion merits closer  investigation.”


Readers' comments (17)

  • Good!!!! If there is an issue of fraud that should be investigated, then it should be investigated! The fact that some of that fraud relates to immigration and those people are targeted, does not mean that it is victimisation!!!!

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  • What does BME stand for?

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  • above, just looked on google and there are all sorts of different meanings which are unrelated to the article!

    i get fed up with all these meaningless abbreviations splashed around as it slows reading if one has to spend time looking for them. in my uni hospital we were not allowed to use them in patients' notes as they are often ambiguous, not familiar to all, and can be dangerously misinterpreted.
    some, with a lack of intelligence and commonsense, use them with the intent of not being understood, causing confusion, and for some reason find this savvy and clever!

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  • I think in this context it is black, minority ethnic.

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  • thank you Mike, but what a way to put it!

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  • My understanding of statistics is that in the case of immigrants (Black or White) working in the NHS is that there is merely a greater opportunity for fraud to occur but this is because of a systems failure in the NHS honey-pot organisation rather than a smear on any particular ethnic group.

    Overseas staff may not have a 'face to face' interview, it is more difficult to check who they are, are the qualifications gained actually theirs, are their references bona fide? eg. the person interviewed on the phone & whose references you check may not be the person who turns up to do the job.

    Clearly a system as flawed as ours will attract those most morally challanged in any society. But any sensible person will know not to judge an entire society by its criminal element.

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  • I dont care if someone is pink purple or green with yellow spots, if they commit fraud they run the risk of getting caught.

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  • Well said Mike and Sarah

    If it is fraud any one of any colour should be investigated.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Jul-2011 3:07 pm I know, I think these people are too busy hand wringing to worry about grammar or common sense. These 'disproportionate' victimisation claims really do get on my nerves.

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  • Minorities have been working in the NHS for years unfortunately there is a new type of people whether black/white green or whatever who because of greed and selfishness have decided to defraud the NHS. To me this article seems to want to turn these defrauders into victims which is not the case. Majority of Ethnic minorities who work for the NHS are law abiding and would not even consider to defraud the NHS how about the immigrants who came to Britain in the 50s and 60s to work in the NHS and did not consider defrauding the NHS. My opinion is if you defraud the NHS you should be punished accordingly it does not matter to me whether you are black/white pink or what ever colour or ethinic background.

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