New whistleblower hotline to stop NHS prescription fraud

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A whistleblower's hotline to expose fraud and corruption in the NHS was launched by health ministers yesterday to try to stop pharmacists, GPs and dentists cheating the health service.

A whistleblower's hotline to expose fraud and corruption in the NHS was launched by health ministers yesterday to try to stop pharmacists, GPs and dentists cheating the health service.

The new confidential phone line will allow NHS staff to report suspected incidences of fraud, including the writing of false prescriptions.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath,a Health minister, said the phone line would stop dishonest NHS employees and patients draining public money. "The vast majority of patients and professionals are honest but there are those who seek to abuse the resources of the NHS," he said.

"The hotline will back up the wide range of anti-fraud initiatives already in place, and will improve the arrangements for the detection of fraud. By doing so we will free up resources for better patient care."

The writing of false prescriptions costs the NHS an estimated £100m a year and includes claims by the public for free prescriptions for which they do not qualify. There has been a £48m reduction in fraud since 1999.

The new fraud line, designed to deal with up to 500 calls a week, will be staffed by "trained specialist operators" who will pass details to NHS "counter fraud operatives" for investigation. But there is a fear some of the calls may be malicious attempts to discredit colleagues.

The Tories criticised the scheme as a gimmick. "This is indicative of the Government's priorities," said Dr Liam Fox, the Health spokesman. "While patients are unnecessarily dying of cancer and heart disease the Government is busy doing publicity stunts."

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