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Chains: Pharmacies deserve ‘positive attention’, not fraud allegations

Exclusive
Leyla Hannbeck said the pharmacy contractor fraud report "lacks evidence"
Leyla Hannbeck said the pharmacy contractor fraud report "lacks evidence"

Pharmacies deserve recognition for the positive work they do, rather than more allegations of fraud, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) has stressed.

NHS England’s “economic crime strategy” document – published on September 13 – uses the NHS Counter Fraud Authority’s (NHS CFA) estimate that pharmacy fraud alone cost the NHS £111 million in 2016-17 to justify its crackdown on “large-scale scams” across the health service.

However, AIMp chief executive Leyla Hannbeck told C+D that the report “lacks evidence and is not supported by actual instances” of contractor fraud.

Read C+D's exclusive revelation that only one pharmacy owner has been sanctioned for committing fraud in two years, further undermining government claims about the scale of the issue.

Ms Hannbeck said: “Any form of fraud against the NHS, no matter what professional background, is unacceptable.”

However, pharmacy’s dedication to the NHS and patient care deserves “more positive attention”.

“[Pharmacy teams] go above and beyond on a daily basis delivering great care for their patients,” she added.

Alongside this, “community pharmacy teams are taking part and dedicating significant time [to] monitoring patient exemptions supporting the NHS”, Ms Hannbeck continued.

Alleged examples of pharmacy fraud

According to NHS England, specific examples of contractor fraud include: claiming for prescriptions not dispensed; claiming for services not performed; and inflated drugs costs.

“A number of analytics reviews” have been undertaken to combat pharmacy owner fraud and pharmacies are being supported “to improve their processes and reduce errors”, the commissioning body claimed.

The NHS England document also claims general practice fraud accounts for £88m a year, while dental fraud accounts for £126.1m.

Pharmacy fraud allegations: a recent history

In June, the NHS’s Counter Fraud Authority (NHS CFA) told C+D of plans to step up investigations into fraudulent expenses claims by pharmacy contractors in England.

This followed the DH's 2018 “drive” to uncover pharmacies claiming payments for services they had not carried out.

It claimed at the time that “large-scale scams” by “a minority of pharmacists and dentists”, were “impacting heavily” on the total fraud bill in England.

However, a freedom of information request by C+D later revealed that the DH was unable to provide compelling evidence of large-scale fraud occurring in the sector.

In July, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS BSA) announced it was offering to pay up to £750,000 for a “predictive analytics partner” to help combat alleged pharmacy fraud.

However, a C+D investigation in August revealed that just one pharmacy owner has been sanctioned for committing fraud in two years, undermining government claims about the scale of the issue.

Read lawyer David Reissner’s view on why the £111m pharmacy contractor fraud figure is bogus.

1 Comments
Question: 
What do you think about the allegations of pharmacy fraud?

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Thank you for this article. So many contractors are working their socks off to deliver care for their patients, often supplying medicines at a loss. Even when not at work it is difficult to switch off because you think about if you have done everything right for your patients or if there was anything more you could have done. This sector needs more positivity and better recognition.

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