/ Scams

How the NHSCFA protects the NHS and its patients

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 report@phishing.gov.uk. 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.

Comments
Irene Buckley-Ingham says:
10 March 2021

Incredible that people would defraud the NHS at such a time of desperate need…….mind blowing!

Sadly, not incredible.

Sadly fraudsters just want to increase their gains. They don’t care how noble the target might be. Indeed a noble target like the NHS is much more likely to be caring & trusting than some of us other ignoble beings, who might be less susceptible.

Disgusting it is defrauded at all. I wonder what country the defrauders come from, homegrown or other.

These fraudsters care for no one but themselves, they have no conscience or worries towards those who they scam and rip off, they think they are immune to it all.

That sounds racist and xenophobic. We have plenty of home grown criminals

A small minority of people have no moral standards.

Report and catch fraudsters asap /make them pay

Report and catch fraudsters asap /make them pay

These fraudsters have no conscience or worries as to who they scam or rip off, they are all despicable and inhuman people just out to make a fast profit, our NHS is a wonderful organisation and yet these. unscrupulous people take advantage.

Margaret Russell says:
11 March 2021

I do hope that part of the penalty for anyone convicted of NHS fraud will be their permanent exclusion from all services provided under the National Health Service. Let them pay for all their medical needs out of their ill gotten gains.

Nicole King says:
11 March 2021

This organisation is misnamed. I understood it to be an organisation that investigates fraud at NHS counters (presumably those in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies). I suspect it would be better named the NHS Counter-Fraud Agency or even NHS Fraud Countering Agency. Some people shouldn’t be let out in public in charge of the English language.

Irene Buckley-Ingham says:
11 March 2021

>rolls eyes<

Dale Chaplin says:
11 March 2021

When I saw the headline my initial thought was the same as Nicole, Fraud at the counter. However, as soon as I read further I realised my mistake.

It’s good when writers use correct grammar and terminology but this is a fairly tolerant place that accepts the occasional inexactitude.

Incidentally – and perhaps I shouldn’t mention it – the NHSFCA is an Authority, not an Agency, so in some people’s eyes it has been doubly misnamed.

John Joseph – I am intrigued to know how you and Irene Buckley-Ingham [a few steps up this thread] are able to use the same avatar.

Nicole King’s comment might have upset you both but it is not the most intolerant one on this site by a long chalk.

Patrick Taylor says:
11 March 2021

I am always concerned when a major organisation cannot keep up-to-date it’s public facing website. It might seem picky but it is a very obvious organisational hiccup.

“The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) will be attending 2019’s biggest pharmaceutical event of the year, the Pharmacy Show 2019 conference. The conference will take place on Sunday 6 October and Monday 7 October 2019 at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Birmingham. Over the course of the two days, there will be multiple sessions covering different areas of the pharmacy sector. “

Irene says:
12 March 2021

Really, you have that much time in your day do you?

A 2019 news item isn’t going to be up to date, any more than an old newspaper.

stephen cartwright says:
11 March 2021

the vast majority of these scams are from foreign based criminals and it is about time that they were taken down with assistance from phone companies.

Adrienne Greenbank says:
11 March 2021

The way I spot whether emails are scams is through the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors they make, at which point I delete them. I was surprised to see therefore, in your “blurb” above, that you have written
“ . . you can report it us . . . “ when it should have been “. . you can report it to us. . . “
More care needed to maintain credibility!

Ian Tibbles says:
11 March 2021

Whilst helpful, the essential information in this email could have been written in one short paragraph – with more chance of being read!

John Joseph says:
16 March 2021

A lazy comment that smacks of the goldfish attention span of the twitter generation. This is a well considered and informative piece that someone has taken the time to create and share. I learned a lot. Try kindness.

John Joseph – What Ian Tibbles has written might be what many others are thinking and doesn’t deserve censure. I think we can tolerate such observations here.

Obviously, constructive comments are the most welcome and the ‘Report’ function should be used for hostile criticism of other writers’ contributions so that the moderators can exercise their judgment.

Fraud is getting worst and this is partly to do with the Government in the sentences people get are a joke most get a few months some just get community service. The law should be changed that if you are caught there should be a minimum sentences and go up in stages depending on the monetary amount defrauded.

Carol Ellis says:
11 March 2021

I have had an email regarding my Covid vaccine.At that point I was still waiting for appointment. They were wanting me to pay. Luckily I suspected a scam and blocked it. I now have had my first vaccine. So far no more emails trying to scam me🤞

John Joseph says:
17 March 2021

I believe thousands of us have been helped to become far more aware of the risks fraudsters pose as a consequence of the hard work of our government and related bodies have put in behind the scenes. Every penny counts and we can all play a part in saving them.

Raymond J Walker says:
11 March 2021

I am pleased that there is thought to protect the NHS. We need to push for an end to the unnecessary high cost of sanitiser when its ingredients of glycerol and ethanol are cheap. PPE and Sanitiser should be made in the UK yet we are still importing from China.
The invention of yet another NHS quango in forming the NHSCFA is outrageous and not needed; it is only draining more of the NHS budget and a section within the over-staffed NHS England, CCGs or QCA could take on the task without more personnel. The NHS Front Line is terrific and dedicated but how is it that lightly medical trained senior managers get a higher salary than consultants for the same hourly week?
There seems to be a further reorganisation of the CCGs and one wonders why. The question was asked of my local CCG and was met with silence even when I later repeated the question. They have been in existence for a short length of time so it points to incompetent planning that they could/’t get the system right when they closed down the SHA and PCTs. Or is not that they are running out of work to justify their staff’s employment without a new scheme to work to, to keep themselves busy?

Wilmslow Cheshire

Irene says:
12 March 2021

“Invention of a quango”? It’s been in existence for years, clearly and now needs extra eyes and ears during a pandemic, not more smoke and mirrors negativity!

I agree. Here is brief information about the NHSCFA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NHS_Counter_Fraud_Authority

John Joseph says:
17 March 2021

Thank you. That’s auseful insight.

Attemting to fraud people at a time like this leaves me lost for words.
The guilty, if they are ever caught in the UK or elsewhere, should face the ultimate panalty and not only get a lengthy custodial stint but, be refused any future treatment unless they pay for it .

Anne Macdonald says:
12 March 2021

The NHS should not be part of a trade deal!

DUNCAN C MCGREGOR says:
12 March 2021

surely it is high time the prime minister prioritised confronting fraud using available private sector skills and cooperation from major social platforms

Irene says:
12 March 2021

Private sector and the NHS…….hasn’t got a very snappy recent ring to it ….