Prescription fraud costs NHS pounds 150m

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The Independent Online
PRESCRIPTION FRAUD that is draining the NHS of at least pounds 150m a year, has prompted the Government to set up a new crime-busting agency.

The Government is to start regional and national anti-fraud teams in an attempt to stem the flow of funds, the Health minister, Alan Milburn, announced yesterday, in advance of an Audit Commission report into the problem. The report is due out tomorrow and is expected to be highly critical of fraud detection in the NHS.

The report is likely to show that while detection rates have improved, they are still only scratching the surface, uncovering only pounds 2.6m in 1997/98.

Mr Milburn's proposals include the setting up of a Directorate of Counter Fraud Services. In addition there will be new regional teams of specialist fraud-busters working with health authorities and other NHS organisations in all parts of the country to counter fraud. The aim is to reduce fraud to an "absolute minimum within 10 years" and save at least pounds 75m a year.

The measures were announced as news came of the replacement of the management of an NHS Trust in Croydon, London, pending the investigation of a pounds 1m fraud.

The chairman of Lifecare NHS Trust, Frank Birch, has resigned, while the chief executive, Ian Semple, is on paid extended leave. There is no suggestion that either man is implicated in the alleged fraud.

It is believed that the investigations revolve around allegations of double payments, by both the DSS and NHS, for a small number of patients.