ACCORDING to the BBC Panorama programme, broadcast last night, the NHS is being defrauded of £5 billion a year, a massive loss to a budget that is being steadily cut year-on-year by the government’s austerity measures.
This amount, which is twenty times the government’s official figures, would pay for 250,000 new nurse jobs.
This amount is of necessity an estimate as the government does not compile its own official figures on the total amount of fraud in the NHS, they only record cases where individual patients falsely claim exemption from charges or dentists are found guilty of claiming for work not done or overcharging for dental work.
What is being left out by the government is the whole question of fraud carried out by private contractors and private medical companies who have descended like vultures to pick the bones off the NHS.
The ‘official’ government figure showing losses due to fraud of £229 million a year were described in the programme as ‘completely implausible’ by Jim Gee a former director of NHS counter-fraud services.
Gee points out that if the official figure is to be believed then it means that the NHS is ‘would be doing thirty times better than any other healthcare organisation in the world’.
In fact, the government appears to be adverse to rooting out corruption and fraud in the NHS, a stark contrast to the continuing witch-hunt to ‘find’ fraud amongst benefit seekers.
Panorama revealed that there are just over three hundred fraud investigators tackling economic crimes against the NHS in England and Wales, while the Department for Work and Pensions employs six times that number hunting down ‘benefit cheats’ despite the fact that fraudulent benefit claims amount to just a fraction of the money being illegally taken out of the health service.
This is not surprising, the Tory run coalition government has a vested interest in portraying benefit claimants as fraudsters and scroungers, leeching off the capitalist system and the root cause of the economic crisis.
At the same time it cannot admit that its drive to privatise the entire NHS has opened the door for every fraudster out to make a killing at the expense of people’s health.
Last year, a health charity, the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI), issued a warning precisely on this point that ‘the introduction of greater use of for profit providers of healthcare services……is likely to substantially increase the amount of healthcare fraud in the NHS.’
The CHPI report noted ‘that the use of payment by results contracts with private providers in the new NHS market provides significant opportunities for fraudulent claims such as “upcoding”, whereby patients are categorised as having more severe conditions than they actually have in order to attract higher rates of payment.’
They go on to report: ‘This type of fraud is prevalent in the US, where private companies already provide healthcare services. A number of the companies which have settled major fraud cases there are currently delivering healthcare services in the UK or are seeking to do so.’
Health-related fraud in the private medicine US health system amounts to a staggering £80 billion per year and companies that have been implicated in this massive fraud and made settlements to avoid prosecution are being welcomed with open arms by the coalition to take over the NHS.
Every penny these companies take out of the NHS, whether by fraud or by the ‘legal’ means of cutting costs and patient care in order to provide their profits, is a crime against the working class and the entire concept of a free health system.
The only way to put an end to this crime is to put an end to this government through the organisation of a general strike to bring it down and replace it with a workers government that will kick out the privateers and ensure a National Health Service free from profit and fraud.