New NHS crackdown

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WIGAN health chiefs have launched a fresh crackdown against con artists.

The Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS hospital trust’s counter fraud specialist today warned crooks, including work-cheat staff and those who claim prescription exemptions to which they are not entitled, that she was on their case and called on people to report such malpractice to her.

Collette McCombe says that while the majority of people who work in and use the NHS are honest, there are a minority who will seek to defraud the NHS of its valuable resources.

Counter fraud work ranges from patients falsely claiming exemption from prescription charges, to the multi-million-pound claims against drug companies for alleged price-fixing.

Collette works on an assortment of fraud issues at a local level.

Among the more recurrent kinds of fraud are staff and professionals’ claiming money for shifts not worked (commonly known as “timesheet fraud”), patients’ falsely claiming exemption from optical, dental or pharmaceutical charges (“patient fraud”) and staff working in unauthorised jobs while on sick leave.

Collette said: “The NHS Counter Fraud Service carries out regular checks to identify areas where fraud could take place.

“It then develops measures to ensure that fraud is made as difficult as possible to commit and easier to detect and prosecute.

“Anyone who has any concerns about fraud in the NHS should either contact me on 01257 256204 or e-mail on collette.mccombe@anw.nhs.uk or contact the NHS fraud and Corruption Line on 0800 028 4060. All calls are confidential and you can remain anonymous if required. Every call is professionally investigated.

“We investigate lots of different types of allegations at all levels. Some recent NHS Fraud examples have been a former prison dentist who defrauded the NHS of £500,000 and was jailed for 30 months and an East Lancashire Hospital patient who claimed £1,100 in fake expenses for appointments he did not have.

“He was given six weeks in jail, suspended for a year, with a 12 week curfew between 7pm and 7am. He was also ordered to pay £500 compensation.

“I would like to reassure everyone that all calls are confidential and anyone suspecting and reporting fraud should remain assured of their anonymity.”