Lincolnshire health trusts unite to tackle NHS fraud

Lincolnshire’s healthcare trusts have vowed to come down hard on anyone trying to defraud the county’s NHS.

Health trusts in Lincolnshire are combining to combat fraud this month.

Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation NHS Trust (LPFT), United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) and Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) have issued the message as part of November’s Fraud Awareness Month to protect vital NHS funds from the taxpayer.

This also coincided with International Fraud Awareness Week, which ran from November 14 to 20.

Fraud against the NHS takes many guises including patients attempting to avoid paying prescription charges by falsely claiming exemptions or claiming for travelling expenses that they are either not entitled to or have not incurred.

Staff may also attempt to gain employment with false documentation, or claim pay for shifts they did not work or work elsewhere while off sick from the trust, and contractors may exaggerate or falsify records of NHS work or goods provided.

A group of 10 conspirators were jailed for up to 10 years in 2017 when they tried to defraud LPFT out of £1.28 million linked to a building contract.

ULHT’s Local Counter Fraud Specialist (LCFS), Peter Riches, and Taelor Martin, who does the same role at LPFT and LCHS, are committed to clamping down on those committing fraud.

A range of activities are planned throughout the month.

In a joint statement, Pete and Taelor said: “The trusts in Lincolnshire are fully committed to ensuring that taxpayers’ money intended for NHS use is not diverted into the pockets of fraudsters.

“All referrals made to us about fraud are investigated thoroughly and we will take the appropriate action against people who commit fraud against any of the trusts. This can include criminal prosecution, disciplinary sanctions, referrals to a professional body and recovery of the defrauded monies.

“Most people who work for and use the NHS are honest, but unfortunately there is a minority that tries to defraud it of its valuable resources. Fraud is not just committed by staff but also patients and those who provide goods and services to the NHS.

“Fraudsters are dealt with in the most appropriate manner, and this could include prosecution through the criminal courts. We also seek to recover monies that have been defrauded and where NHS staff are involved, the trusts will take the appropriate disciplinary action and refer them to their professional body for further possible sanctions.”

All three trusts are on board. Paul Matthew, ULHT’s Director of Finance and Digital, said: “We take allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption seriously all year round. Our LCFS, Pete Riches, works tirelessly to protect our finite resources from fraud and I would encourage anybody with any suspicions to report these to him, or the NHSCFA, immediately. No matter how small, your allegations will always be dealt with appropriately and professionally.”

Sam Wilde, LCHS’s Director of Finance and Business Intelligence, said: “I have overall responsibility for the finances here at LCHS. Throughout my career I have seen some of the effects that fraud has on NHS finances at the impact it has on patients. NHS Fraud is not a victimless crime – it restricts the resources available to invest in ensuring the best possible patient care. Taxpayers’ money, your money, is being diverted from its intended use and into the hands of criminals. We all have an active role to play in reducing fraud by reporting any concerns - no matter how small - directly to the trust’s nominated LCFS, Taelor Martin.”

Mark Platts, LPFT’s Director of Finance and Information said: “NHS Fraud is estimated to cost the NHS £1.2 billion every year diverting much needed funds away from clinical care. In context. this would pay for 40,000 staff nurses or 56,000 junior doctors. This is a substantial amount of the NHS’s budget being diverted into the pockets of fraudsters and away from patient care. That’s why here at LPFT it is important that we all take fraud seriously and are committed to eradicating fraud, bribery, and corruption against the NHS.

“If you have any concerns about fraud, bribery, or corruption against the Trust, whatever they may be, then I would urge you to speak with our LCFS, Taelor Martin.”

Staff and members of the public are encouraged to play their part in protecting NHS resources and report any suspicions of fraud.

To report suspected fraud or corruption in any of the three trusts you can call the appropriate LCFS. Pete’s email is [email protected] while Taelor can be reached via [email protected]

You can also call the NHS Fraud and Corruption Reporting Line on 0800 028 40 60 or visit www.cfa.nhs.uk/reportfraud.