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NHS fraud costing £1.2bn a year

Dodgy practices include GP list inflation and false prescription exemptions

The NHS is losing more than £1.2bn to fraud each year, a report reveals.

“List inflation”, where practices claim they are treating more patients than they are, fraud through self-prescribing and the filing of duplicate timesheets by agency staff are among a range of practices investigators have uncovered.

As well as fraud by staff, patients falsely claiming to be exempt from paying for prescriptions is estimated to be costing £341.7m each year, the Telegraph reports.

Meanwhile, some dentists with NHS contracts are suspected of charging for “phantom appointments”.

In 2018, NHS England set up a specialist counter fraud team to deal with the problem.

“Fraud, bribery and corruption are complex, hidden crimes that represent losses to NHS England and therefore impact the care which can be provided to patients,” the report states. “Whilst the nature and extent of the losses are not fully understood, it is clear that any loss as a result of dishonesty is too much.”

The report says there are considerable gaps in intelligence with reference to fraud risks in primary care areas.

Primary care services as a whole, including pharmacy and dentistry, contributed to 58% of the estimated £1.29bn losses. A further £2.2m is estimated to be lost from NHS pensions each year.