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Minister steps up battle against fraud

Over a quarter of a billion pounds could be being wasted across Northern Irelandís health service through fraud and that must stop - Poots.
Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Health Minister Edwin Poots was speaking ahead of Fraud Awareness Month, launched today at the Grove Wellbeing Centre, Belfast. Speaking about fraud, the Minister said: “Fraud is not a faceless crime, especially in the health service, it affects every one of us. It is a criminal offence and every penny lost to fraud means less to spend on front line services. Whether it’s £1 or £1million, fraud robs the health service of vital resources.

“Fraud includes a wide spectrum of activity such as mis-claiming travel expenses, falsifying hours worked on a timesheet or falsifying qualifications for a job – to those which are more serious, such as bribery and corruption or money laundering.”

Whilst the true extent of fraud in the HSC, and indeed across the NHS nationally, is not known, independent research across the health sector in a number of countries suggests a potential level of fraud may be between 3-7%.

The Minister continued: “Taking the highest possible figure, that equates to almost a quarter of a billion out of a total health and social care budget of around £4billion, which is not available to invest in front line services. What could this money potentially pay for?

  • 26,453 Coronary Heart By-Pass Procedures or;
  • 388,350 Cataract Surgical Procedures or;
  • 38,525 hip replacements or;
  • 7,000 patients receiving renal dialysis treatment or;
  • £280million could build a fully equipped hospital such as the new South West Area Hospital.

“I acknowledge that there is already a significant amount of counter fraud work being undertaken across the health service and that a caseload of some 100 cases was under investigation in 2012/13, which has resulted in a number of criminal prosecutions and financial recoveries.

“However, everyone has a part to play in stopping fraud. It’s not just for the experts in the Business Service Organisation to detect and fix – it’s not just for the accountants and lawyers – all members of staff, from clinical & non clinical, admin to management, including doctors, dentists, nurses, optometrists and pharmacists, have an important role to play in combating fraud.

“It is therefore everyone’s duty to report fraud or suspected fraud – whether that’s through the Fraud Hotline, through the online reporting tool or indeed through your organisation’s whistleblowing procedures. I also believe it’s important for the general public to play their part – after all, it is their money that is being wasted to fraudulent activity.

“During the summer I brought together key officials to hear in detail about fraud within the HSC and the measures being taken to tackle it. This is a matter I intend to pursue with vigour in the months ahead.”

The Fraud Hotline is available on 0800 096 33 96 or report suspected fraud at http://www.reporthealthfraud.hscni.net

Notes to editors:

1. Fraud Awareness Month starts on 2 October 2013 and will run until 31 October 2013.

2. The Business Services Annual Report can be found online

3. Media enquiries about this press release should be directed to the DHSSPS press office on 028 9052 0074, or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.