Fraud could be costing NHS billions, says Portsmouth University

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THE NHS could be losing up to £5bn a year through fraud, a study in Portsmouth has concluded.

The Financial Cost of Healthcare Fraud 2014 is a joint study released today by The Centre for Counter Fraud Studies (CCFS) at the University of Portsmouth in partnership with BDO LLP, an accountancy and business advisory firm.

Healthcare fraud includes a range of activities from patients claiming free prescriptions to which they are not entitled, medical staff claiming for shifts they did not work, to larger scale operations such as dentists claiming money for NHS treatment they didn’t carry out.

The findings show that since 2008, global average losses within the healthcare sector have risen 25 per cent to 6.99 per cent.

When taken as a proportion of the global healthcare expenditure of £4.48 trillion, this equates to £313 billion lost in a year.

In the UK this could equate to over £5 billion lost to the NHS annually through fraud, the report says.

Professor Mark Button, director of the University’s The Centre for Counter Fraud Studies, said the report demonstrates the problem is massive and on the increase.

He said: ‘Our findings in this latest report might reflect that fraud increases during a recession when people are under greater financial pressure. Also the fact that in England the NHS is changing and working with a greater number of private contractors with a responsibility to turn a profit, where there might be a greater risk of fraud.

‘By highlighting the problem and countering fraud effectively, the NHS would reduce losses and free up massive resources for better patient care. Healthcare organisations need to prioritise the problem and invest money in the right areas.’