02/10/2013

Health Fraud Costs NI £250m

Fraud within the health service could be costing Northern Ireland over a quarter of a billion pounds, according to Health Minister Edwin Poots.

Mr Poots was speaking ahead of Fraud Awareness Month, launched today at the Grove Wellbeing Centre in Belfast.

"Fraud is not a faceless crime, especially in the health service, it affects every one of us," he said.

"It is a criminal offence and every penny lost to fraud means less to spend on front line services. Whether it's £1 or £1m, fraud robs the health service of vital resources."

Fraud can include activity such as mis-claiming travel expenses, falsifying hours on a timesheet or qualifications for a job, to more serious crimes such as bribery, corruption and money laundering.

Independent research across the health sector in a number of countries suggests a potential level of fraud may be between 3% and 7%.

"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 £4bn, which is not available to invest in front line services."

According to the Department of Health, the money lost through fraud could be used to fund 26,453 Coronary Heart By-Pass Procedures, 388,350 Cataract Surgical Procedures or 38,525 hip replacements.

£280mn 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," Mr Poots said.

"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."

(IT/JP)

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