Dishonest staff con NHS out of millions

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DISHONEST NHS staff were behind eight of the ten biggest frauds against the health service in Scotland over the past four years.

NHS Scotland has been conned out of a total of £2.2m since 2008/09 – with more than £750,000 spirited away in one year.

The vast majority of the biggest frauds were “inside jobs” and four of the corrupt workers escaped prosecution because of lack of evidence.

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Another con artist got away with almost £120,000 by simply asking health chiefs by email to change bank account details.

The Scottish Tories said it was time to take tougher action against those who preyed on the NHS, branding them “the lowest of the low”.

The figures, from NHS Scotland’s Counter Fraud Fervices division, were released under Freedom of Information and show fraud cost the NHS in Scotland £378,985 in 2008/09.

This figure rose to £652,141 the next year, and to £751,045 in 2010/11, before dropping back to £400,621 in 2011/12, the last year for which there are complete records.

The single biggest case involved an unnamed NHS employee who earned £125,066 after he “made falsehoods on a job application form in order to secure employment with the NHS”.

Despite sacking the worker there was “insufficient evidence to pursue this matter criminally”.

The second biggest case involved an unknown fraudster who conned cash-strapped Scottish NHS out of £119,080.

He simply sent an email to the Scottish NHS requesting a change the bank account details of a genuine contractor.

The criminal was never identified but “intelligence alerts [were] issued across NHS Scotland to prevent further abuse”.

The third biggest case involved anaesthetic assistant Douglas Stevenson who stole surgical equipment from Glasgow hospitals and sold it on eBay.

The NHS was left £73,000 out of pocket as a result, and Glasgow’s Yorkhill children’s hospital was among the hospitals targeted.

He was jailed for 20 months in April 2010 after being charged with fraud.

Sheriff Robert Anthony QC said: “This was a despicable offence at a time when NHS funding is tight.”

Joanne Jamieson, 40, was jailed in 2010 after she stole almost £40,000 by altering her time sheets, and nurse William Ormiston, from Galashiels, claimed £14,492 for shifts he didn’t work.

In four of the ten highest-value cases of fraud there was said to be “insufficient evidence to pursue this matter criminally.”

This was despite the employees responsible being identified and dismissed in three of the cases, including the £125,066 fraud.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde emerged as the largest victim of fraud, with the health board losing a total of £859,728 over the last four financial years.

Unacceptable

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “Fraud of any type is unacceptable, but stealing from patients and hospitals is the lowest of the low.

“When NHS budgets are hard-pressed, £2.2 million could go a long way to paying for more nurses, beds or improving the crumbling hospitals estate.

“Extra efforts should be made now to ensure these con artists – whether patients, staff or members of the public – are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“That would send out a stern message that this practice is unacceptable.”

The freedom of information response said the number of cases requiring to be reported had increased under new Scottish Government rules.

A spokeswoman for NHS Counter Fraud Services said reported cases of fraud were rising due to detection rates improving.

She said: “We have been working with health boards to raise the profile of fraud and people are now aware of it now.

“If people see colleagues working when they’re supposed to be off sick for example they’re more likely to report it.”

She said the lack of fraudsters being prosecuted was often down the the difference in

“Proving financial fraud is very difficult – Any investigation we take forward [to criminal prosecution] has to be beyond reasonable doubt.

“If we don’t see a criminal prosecution we can go down the route of civil recovery.

“In several cases we discuss with the procurator fiscal as it’s ongoing.”

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