In a time of great vulnerability for our health service, the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) explains how it’s fighting fraud in the COVID landscape.
This is a guest post by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority. All views expressed are its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on the NHS, its patients and the wider health sector. To make matters worse, there has been a surge in attempted fraud affecting both the NHS and the public.
With NHS staff under more pressure than ever to deliver NHS services under the strains of COVID, they are unwittingly made vulnerable to fraud in its different guises and the unscrupulous people who prey on vulnerability and capitalise on crises.
So, it is vital that members of staff, temporary workers, contractors and the general public know what NHS fraud looks like and how they can report and escalate their concerns.
Due to the growing number of COVID vaccine related scams, the general public has been receiving advice and messaging from the NHS about what to look out for and where to report these scams against the individual. As part of the campaign, the NHS reminds everyone that in delivering COVID vaccines, it will never:
💉 Ask for or accept cash for vaccines
💉 Ask for your banking details or identity documents
💉 Turn up at your residence unannounced
Any person purporting to require these details is most likely a scammer, fronting a scam. For further information, including who to report these matters to, please read our ‘help us help the frontline’ article.
If you believe you are the victim of a fraud relating to the COVID-19 vaccine, please do not report this to the NHSCFA. Please report it to Action Fraud and forward any suspicious emails to the email@example.com. The NHSCFA is only able to look into fraud where the NHS in England is the victim.
Our counter-fraud guidance
When the pandemic took hold, the NHSCFA developed some COVID-19 counter fraud guidance to help mitigate COVID-related fraud risks against the NHS and cascaded advice for NHS staff on how to protect themselves against the risks that exist for NHS staff and the general public.
Recently, there have been examples in the media of people or companies being investigated for, or charged over, COVID-related offences.
Cases such as the charging of a man in Birmingham for allegedly sending fraudulent COVID vaccine text messages highlights the point that the vaccine is free and cannot be sold privately in the UK.
If, via text messages or in any other form, people are contacted asking them to pay for the vaccine, they should report it to the Police via Action Fraud.
What is the NHSCFA?
The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) is a special health authority tasked with overseeing, preventing and investigating fraud and other economic crime affecting the NHS and wider health service.
We have assessed that the NHS vulnerability to fraud, bribery and corruption is an annual £1.21 billion, which is a potential loss of approximately 1% of the nation’s health budget. That may sound like a small slice, but every pound of the NHS budget is taxpayers’ money, diverted to criminals’ pockets from its purpose: vital healthcare provision, not least frontline care.
The NHSCFA is an intelligence-led organisation, using information to build a better understanding of NHS fraud, to inform our preventative work and to support our investigations.
Our organisation employs some 200 people, many highly specialised, to prevent and tackle NHS fraud. The NHSCFA exchanges information with counter fraud colleagues across the public sector to get a better understanding of how fraud, bribery and corruption is impacting the NHS and its resources.
Spotting and reporting fraud
The NHSCFA investigates fraud, bribery and corruption affecting the NHS, where the NHS is the victim. But what exactly does that look like?
There are 123 known types of fraud that are committed against the NHS – that’s a lot! That is why we have created a Fraud Reference Guide that sits on our website and includes the definitions of all 123 known fraud types.
If anyone has suspicions that fraud is being committed against the NHS, you can report it to us either through our online reporting form, or by calling our fraud and corruption reporting line on 0800 028 4060. If you are NHS staff, you can also report your concerns through your nominated Local Counter Fraud Specialist (LCFS) who is the eyes, ears, mouthpiece and local fraud enforcement lead.
Working together with our wider stakeholders and the public is massively important to the work we do, ensuring that we preserve NHS resources. Working together and in partnership increases our range, sphere and scope of interest dramatically as well as providing specialist knowledge by local area.
We have and will continue to work collaboratively with our counter fraud colleagues across the public sector to mitigate the risks of NHS fraud, bribery and corruption and intend to make an increasingly growing impact on prevention and enforcement until we collectively bring NHS fraud to an end.
This was a guest post by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority. All views expressed were its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Have you received scams relating to the COVID-19 vaccines, or other types of phishing attempts and cold calls purporting to be from the NHS?
If so, please let us know in the comments.