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News / June 24, 2009

Anti-fraud unit claws back

by Guy Hiscott

Anti-fraud probes into professionals in the health services recouped almost £1.5 million in Northern Ireland in a single year – and, in addition, £3,000 from dental practitioners.

The investigations were conducted in 2007/08 by the Counter Fraud Unit (CFU) of the Department of Health and included suspicions involving dentists, GP practices, opticians and pharmacists in the province.

Details of a number of its cases were disclosed in a report published by the watchdog Northern Ireland Audit Office.

‘The temptation to commit fraud, for a small number of family health services contractors, will always exist,’ it said.

‘The CFU continues to undertake investigations, in conjunction with health board colleagues, into pharmacists, opticians, dentists and GPs and/or their staff, where suspicion of fraud exists.

‘In 2007/08, investigations into practitioners resulted in total savings to the public purse of more than £1.4 million,’ the Audit Office stated.

In addition, £3,000 was recouped from dental practitioners during the year, it said.

This fraud involves falsely claiming exemption from payments for prescriptions and dental and ophthalmic treatment.

While acknowledging that ‘substantial’ success had been achieved, the Audit Office warned that the rate of fraud in exemption claims remained too high at 4.5%

It also described fraud in the heath and social care sector as ‘unacceptable’.

The Northern Ireland Audit Office report examined the accounts of health trusts, boards and agencies.