Pharmacist Michael Lloyd, 52, of Penllyn, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, received the sentence at Cardiff Crown Court today (October 22), having previously admitted to the offences, the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) said.
Mr Lloyd is co-director of Llanharan Pharmacy Ltd, which operates five premises across south east Wales, the NHSCFA said. The charges against him relate to his conduct at one of these branches – Talbot Pharmacy at Heol Y Gyfraith, Talbot Green, Rhondda Cynon Taf.
The other four pharmacies do not appear to have processed prescriptions in the same way, the NHSCFA said.
"More expensive liquid form"
Investigations by the NHS Counter Fraud Service (NHSCFS) Wales revealed that “on numerous occasions” over a five-year period, Mr Lloyd falsely claimed he had dispensed medicines in their more expensive liquid form, when patients had in fact received tablets, the NHSCFA said.
“Some tablets for dementia, such as memantine and donepezil, cost as little as £3, but [Mr] Lloyd claimed for the more expensive liquid formulation, which sometimes cost the NHS as much [as] £300 each time,” the NHSCFA said.
“[Mr] Lloyd sometimes altered the prescription forms – which had often already been honestly endorsed by staff to show that tablets had been dispensed – by crossing out their entries to claim for the much more expensive items, such as liquids and dissolvable or dispersible tablets,” it added.
The prescriptions, which were genuine and handwritten, had usually been issued by doctors at the nearby Royal Glamorgan Hospital, although investigators also identified that Mr Lloyd had “falsely claimed for liquids on prescriptions issued to patients by community dental practitioners for painkillers and antibiotics”, the NHSCFA said.
“However, patients always received the correct medication they were prescribed,” it stressed.
As part of the investigation, the NHSCFS Wales worked closely with the local Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board to analyse Talbot Pharmacy’s prescriptions against its own computer systems, identifying more than 1,500 that had been falsely claimed, costing the NHS a total of £76,475.
Mr Lloyd repaid this amount in full in May, the NHSCFA said.
"Abused his position"
NHSCFS Wales operational fraud manager Graham Dainty said Mr Lloyd had “abused his position of trust to deliberately defraud NHS Wales over an extended period of time”.
“A dishonest minority are harming the reputation of the honest majority of pharmaceutical practitioners,” he added.
NHSCFA CEO Sue Frith branded the case a “shocking example of pharmaceutical contractor fraud”, which she said is a “priority action area” for the organisation this year.
A C+D investigation revealed that in the 18 months before August this year only one pharmacy owner had been sanctioned for committing fraud, despite government claims that this issue had been “impacting heavily” on the overall NHS fraud bill in England.
C+D has contacted Llanharan Pharmacy Ltd for comment.