The hidden nature of fraud means that the first step in tackling it is finding it, as Sue Frith explains in her first article since recently being appointed permanent CEO of the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA).
As the CEO of the NHS Counter Fraud Authority, my focus is very much on saving money for the NHS. It’s that simple. Fraud is an insidious and despicable crime that diverts much needed funds away from where they’re required to provide patient care. Everyone who truly values the NHS should be hugely concerned about this and actively engaged in the work needed to fight against fraud.
We know that there are financial challenges for the NHS and, indeed, right across the public sector. In order to make sure that money available for healthcare isn’t lost, diverted or stolen we need to take the threat of fraud seriously.
What, then, are the challenges?
Fraud is a hidden crime. Fraudsters hide what they do and can be ruthless and clever in their manipulation of systems and people. To fight it, you have to find it.
Fraudsters are always going to look for the weakness in systems. They will spend time and effort looking for vulnerabilities and, when they find one, they will try to exploit it and then cover their tracks.
A fraudster only has to be successful once to make money. Those who are responsible for keeping the NHS protected from fraud – whether at a central, local or individual level – have to be vigilant all of the time.
Most of those who work in and use the NHS are honest, but that’s no reason to ignore the very real threat posed by fraud. At the NHSCFA, we want to help the fight against fraud, help organisations to understand it, find it and stop it. As with health, prevention is better than cure and so important. The tricky part is finding fraud in the first place so that it can be prevented. Of course, preventing something that cannot easily be seen and that you may even doubt is happening in your organisation isn’t easy.
Being open about the problem and addressing it at a strategic level is essential. This means raising awareness of how fraud’s committed, how to report it, being positive about finding fraud and making sure those reporting it are supported and assisted to do so. Of course, vigilance in spotting this hidden risk is also really important.
We will be highlighting all this in a few weeks’ time as we join hundreds of organisations around the world in marking International Fraud Awareness Week, which this year runs from 17-23 November. We’re planning a national campaign and very much look forward to working with our partners across the NHS and beyond in raising awareness of NHS fraud.
It has been a privilege for me to lead the NHSCFA since it was established just under two years ago. We’ve achieved a great deal during this time. As we continue to focus on reducing the impact of fraud on NHS funds, we need to think carefully about how we can work with all NHS organisations as partners such that we can demonstrate the value of effective counter fraud work.
Sue Frith is CEO of the NHS Counter Fraud Authority
*NHSCFA Copyright 2019. Licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence