A man has been found guilty of defrauding the NHS out of £700,000. Michael Cope was accused of awarding business contracts to companies that he knew would fail. His two accomplices in the scam previously plead guilty to the fraud, which the NHS say cost £1.4 Million to put right.
Together, the three men awarded construction contracts to a company called George Morgan Limited and the work they carried out was so poor, it cost double the original price to fix. The court heard how the men spent the company’s profits on expensive holidays, designer watches, cars and property. The men even tried to hide their involvement in the scam by changing their names.
By changing the name of the company’s owners, the men were able to award themselves the NHS contract. They wrote emails and invoices to themselves and falsified quotes from real firms, in an attempt to hide what they were doing from auditors.
The two men plead guilty to fraud and three counts of transferring criminal property plus one count of perverting the course of justice. Cope, however, continued to contest his innocence, but the jury were read text messages between the three men, which showed that Cope not only knew about the scam, but was actively participating in it. The three men are due to be sentenced in November.
How much does fraud cost the NHS?
A newly published official report by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority has revealed the problem is much worse than anyone could have imagined. It estimates fraud costs the NHS £1.29 billion per year. This could be enough to pay for an additional 40,000 nurses or 5,000 ambulances.
Last month, a dentist from Swansea was given a 12 month suspended sentence for claiming money from the NHS for work she had never done and for stealing £24,000. And in March, a locksmith was sentenced to six years in prison for overcharging the NHS nearly £600,000. The NHS has vowed to stamp out fraud and save the already struggling service from haemorrhaging more money. The NHS Counter Fraud Authority say they have over 45 convictions of fraud against the NHS already this year.
Fraud committed against the NHS is taxpayers money which is taken away from patient care and falls into the hands of criminals. The NHS Counter Fraud Authority was set up in November of last year and investigates a range of economic crimes such as fraud, bribery and corruption.
Fraud against the NHS takes many forms; here are just a few examples:
- False claims – This can range from patients claiming for free treatment when they are not entitled to it, to NHS professionals claiming money for services they have not provided.
- Payment diversion fraud – This happens when fraudsters trick an NHS organisation into paying money to them, for example by pretending to be from one of the organisation’s regular suppliers.
- Procurement fraud – This relates to the purchasing of goods and services by an NHS organisation. An example is bid rigging, when bidders agree between themselves to eliminate competition, denying the organisation a fair price or delivering poor quality goods or services.
- Misrepresentation of qualifications or experience – This occurs when someone applying for a job claims to have qualifications or experience they do not actually have. This is particularly serious if it occurs in senior and medical positions.
- Timesheet fraud – This happens when staff falsify their timesheets, for example to obtain payment for hours they have not actually worked.
The NHS Counter Fraud Authority is also asking the public to help, they want everyone to report and suspicions or concerns they may have about fraud and have set up an anonymous 24hour reporting line on 0800 028 4060.