Prescription cheats targeted in crackdown

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A CRACKDOWN has been launched on people who falseley claim exemption on their prescription charges.

NHS North Yorkshire and York officers are starting a new wave of spot checks of prescriptions redeemed at pharmacies and GP practices across the county.

The money recovered will go back to the relevant local health budget with imposed penalty charges going towards improving patient care in the area.

Adrian Snarr, director of finance and contracting, said: “Defrauding the NHS is a very serious matter. It deprives services of money that could otherwise be spent on staff, equipment and resources and it costs the taxpayer millions of pounds a year.

“By pursuing false claimants we hope we are sending a clear message to fraudsters and providing a deterrent.

“We also want to appeal to law abiding tax payers to report any concerns they may have to the NHS counter fraud specialists. This can be done in complete confidence and ultimately helps us to reduce a severe drain on our health system.”

Latest figures from NHS Protect (the NHS counter fraud service) show the value of fraud and unlawful action against the health service in 2009/10 was more than £10m.

In the same year there were 150 successful prosecutions nationwide with potential savings from completed investigations totalling over £4m.

Local health authorities have the power to recover unpaid fees and apply a penalty charge of £100 to patients who wrongly claim exemption from the £7.40 prescription charge, as well as other means-tested charges such as those made by opticians and dentists.

Those who fail to pay the penalty or who repeatedly offend may be prosecuted in a magistrates’ court and could be fined up to £2,500.

Between 2006 and 2011, counter fraud officers in North Yorkshire conducted more than 7,500 exemption checks, issued 1,100 penalties and recovered over £18,000 from people wrongly claiming exemptions from NHS charges.

• Anyone with a concern about prescription fraud should call the confidential NHS Fraud and Corruption Reporting Line on freephone 0800 0284060. You can also report online at www.reportnhsfraud.nhs.uk