The National Fraud Service
Fraudsters fleecing NHS of £3bn a year: Bosses ‘look the other way’ as vast sums are stolen
Fraud is costing the NHS £3billion a year, with millions being paid to doctors and dentists who ‘invent’ shifts and treatment. Managers are also using surgery funds to pay their mortgages or buy iPods, digital cameras and computer games.
A report by the think-tank 2020Health warns that the NHS is ‘looking the other way’ as vast amounts of money are lost to fraud. Among the cases are:
* A dentist convicted of a £600,000 fraud after he billed the NHS for treating patients who had died;
* A female doctor who conned a hospital trust out of £61,000 by claiming overtime for more than a year after she had stopped working;
* Another dentist jailed for charging the NHS £200,000 for treatment he never performed;
* And a manager at King’s College Hospital in London who invented ‘ghost’ employees and gave their pay to four of her friends.
Vast amounts of money are also being lost on the treatment of health tourists – overseas patients who are not eligible for NHS care. Critics claim these funds could be used to pay for cancer treatment, extra nurses or even new hospitals.
Although the NHS has been protected from spending cuts, it has been ordered to make efficiencies totalling £20billion by 2014 so the savings can be ploughed back into better treatment and care. Campaigners say that if the NHS did more to prevent fraud it could make fewer efficiency savings.
Julia Manning, of 2020Health, said: ‘Anyone who still claims the NHS does not need to reform should ask themselves whether £3billion a year is an acceptable price to pay for looking the other way. ‘Management urgently needs to tackle fraud in an open way that inspires the confidence of the public. The first step to reducing it is to stop being in denial.’
Matthew Sinclair, of the Tax- Payers’ Alliance, said: ‘£3billion is enough to pay for over 7,000 nurses for a decade or build five hospitals.’
A spokesman from NHS Protect, its counter-fraud service, said: ‘NHS Protect thoroughly investigates allegations of fraud and presses for the toughest criminal sanctions if necessary. In 2010/11 alone NHS Protect successfully prosecuted over 100 cases.’
Checks on asylum seekers halted in row over stab vests
Does the saga of British incompetence and stupidity never end?
Border control chiefs ordered officers to stop carrying out crucial checks on asylum seekers because of a dispute over the wearing of stab vests. They halted the monitoring of asylum seekers for several weeks during the same period that the border force also relaxed checks on the passports of non-EU nationals entering Britain.
Officers at the UK Border Agency headquarters in West London had demanded stab vests after a colleague was threatened by a knife-wielding asylum seeker. But Rebecca Baumgartner, UKBA’s deputy director for London, ruled they could not wear them for the checks – conducted at asylum seekers’ living accommodation – while a review of the policy was under way. As a compromise, she said officers should not monitor asylum seekers in all parts of London until they made a decision.
As a result, for several weeks between June and July, UKBA officers across the capital did not carry out spot-checks on hundreds of asylum seekers whose applications were being processed by the Home Office.
Directors in London finally announced stab vests would remain banned, despite claims that officers in other parts of the country, such as Kent, are allowed to wear them. Officers were told to resume spot-checks, but if there was a chance that a search could be confrontational, they should either not to do them or else take police officers with them.
The Government is still reeling from the UKBA’s ‘reckless’ decision to relax passport checks on non-EU nationals entering the country as a way of reducing airport queues.
Last month, Home Secretary Theresa May suspended three of the force’s directors and told Parliament she only authorised a pilot scheme where checks on EU passports could be relaxed to ease the backlog.
She said UKBA directors had extended the scheme to non-EU passports without ministerial approval.
UKBA sources say the spot-checks in the community are the only way to keep track of asylum seekers while their claims are being handled. They also help ensure asylum seekers are not working illegally. One officer said: ‘Suspending checks just gave a red light to God knows how many people to abscond.’
Although they have now resumed, some officers have dismissed them as ineffective, since the more dangerous asylum seekers are no longer monitored.
It has also been revealed that despite the passports furore, UKBA chief executive Rob Whiteman has emailed staff saying that they ‘have done nothing wrong’, and that recent events ‘do not mean we should worry about sometimes making genuine mistakes; we all want to perform at the highest level.’
UKBA said: ‘The UK Border Agency has a wide range of measures to combat asylum absconders. All those in receipt of support must meet reporting conditions. ‘All immigration officers carrying out enforcement work wear stab vests. Those assessing support claims for asylum seekers in the community do not as it is not felt that this role presents any significant risk.’
Labour dragged into border fiasco over dropped passport checks
Millions of people are feared to have been allowed into Britain without full passport checks in a major new borders scandal.
All but the most cursory checks were abandoned on passengers on British-registered coaches as they arrived at Dover, Britain’s biggest port.
Instead of passports being scanned electronically, border guards checked that the picture matched the holder. It means they were not cross-checked to a computer database to establish if the holder was a wanted terrorist, criminal or immigration offender.
The policy was in place for four years after being introduced when Labour was in power, but never disclosed to Parliament.
It was implemented because the French complained about congestion in Calais caused by backlogs at passport control.
Ministers discovered the scheme earlier this month and ended it ten days ago when the Border Agency official in charge of the southern ports was suspended, along with Brodie Clark, the director of the UK Border Force, who was accused of relaxing passport checks at airports on non-European Union citizens without ministers’ permission.
The Dover scandal has the potential to be bigger than that at the airports and will add to political pressure on Theresa May, the Home Secretary.
It is estimated that up to 17 million coach passengers passed through Dover’s ferry terminal in the last four years, of whom the majority would have been on British-registered coaches.
It was not known last night if the policy was implemented at other ports, and whether it was operated around the clock or at the busiest times.
Relaxing controls at Dover is particularly damaging because the port has been identified as one of the main routes for illegal entry to the country.
Camps of people trying to make their way into Britain have sprung up in the French port, with repeated attempts to close them and stop smugglers using lorries or desperate people climbing onto trains and under vans and coaches to enter the UK.
Last night there were calls for a full statement on the suspension of checks at Dover, and for the Home Office to make clear whether it affected other ports on the south coast of England.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee said he would ask for detailed information on whether ministers were aware of the changes, when Mr Clark and Rob Whiteman, the UKBA chief executive, appear before MPs this week to be questioned on the airports scandal.
“This information raises serious concerns about the history of checks undertaken by the UKBA [United Kingdom Border Agency],” he said. “We must ensure our border checks are not compromised and that the UKBA has the resources it needs to thoroughly check every individual coming into Britain. “The committee will question Rob Whiteman and Brodie Clark this Tuesday on exactly what checks have been used and when and who was notified.”
The relaxed security checks were introduced during 2007. That year Jacqui Smith took over as home secretary from Dr John Reid, now Lord Reid of Cardowan, although it is unclear exactly when the changes were introduced. The key question will be whether Labour ministers were informed. Coalition ministers were unaware of the policy until this month.
The UKBA’s shelving of full passport checks on coach passengers was understood to have been one of the reasons behind the decision to suspend Carole Upshall, director of the UK Border Force’s south and European operations. She was sent home on the same day as Mr Clark, who resigned last week.
He has denied acting without authorisation when he allowed non-European Union citizens to be let through passport controls without full checks when queues became unwieldy at airports.
Managers at the UKBA encouraged staff not to examine the contents of passport biometric microchips, and also dropped “warnings index checks” – the database of people who should be stopped at the border because they are due to be in limited circumstances.
But the revelation that potentially millions of travellers underwent even less rigorous security will raise yet more questions about the way the Home Office has failed to safeguard Britain’s borders.
An estimated 86,000 coaches pass through Dover every year. The Home Office refused to disclose if the scheme was limited to private hire coaches, which make up a significant proportion of coach traffic at the ports and would be likely to have mostly British passengers on board, or included scheduled services to Britain from destinations in Europe, which would include significant proportions of foreigners.
Mr Clark is due to give evidence on Tuesday to the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee, and the scandal is likely to be reignited as the former civil servant gives his first detailed account of his dealings with Mrs May and other ministers.
Mrs May has consistently denied that she authorised in any fashion the relaxation of controls at airports ordered by Mr Clark. She has been backed by his superior, Mr Whiteman, who issued a statement saying that Mr Clark had “admitted to me on November 2 that on a number of occasions this year he authorised his staff to go further than ministerial instruction”.
However, the emergence of separate relaxations at ports for British coaches may serve to increase political pressure on Mrs May.
Labour refused to comment last night on what its ministers knew when they were in government.
Chris Bryant, shadow immigration minister, said: “Theresa May needs to urgently publish the data we know exists and come clean about the scale of the problem – so we can learn lessons and make sure we stop illegal entrants in future.”
Separately, it has also emerged that security checks at Heathrow were significantly watered down on a previous occasion, leading to a dramatic fall in the number of foreign travellers who were refused permission to enter Britain.
During a two-day strike by immigration officers in October last year managers instituted what they described as “light touch” security with fewer checks.
Documents show 22 people were refused leave to enter on the day before the strike, but over the two day action nine were refused.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Nothing is more important than the integrity of our border in order to protect national security and reduce and control immigration. “There are ongoing investigations into allegations regarding the relaxation of border controls without ministerial approval.
“UKBA ensured additional trained staff authorised to carry out all necessary checks were in place at the border during the strike last year.”
Britain’s judges continue to defy democracy
Two cases from the past week highlight a worrying extension of judicial power
The courts were flexing their political muscles again last week – as they seem to every week. First, a High Court judge ruled that Sefton Council could not legally freeze the fees it pays private companies to look after old people needing care. Then, on Friday, the same court ruled that the Isle of Wight could not cut its social care budget for the disabled.
I happen to agree that it is bad that the amount devoted to paying for the elderly, or the disabled, should fall behind demand – but what business is it of the High Court to enforce its view? No doubt those who will benefit, and their relatives, will be delighted. But since the money will have to be saved somewhere, other people will end up having their services cut, and will be very unhappy. What will the High Court do then?
It’s the job of local authorities to balance competing needs and to come to a conclusion as to which should be sacrificed – just as Parliament must perform that task on a national scale. The matter of how resources gathered from taxpayers are distributed is, and ought to be, a decision for the elected and accountable representatives of the people. If we don’t like what those representatives do, we can change them. That is what democracy means.
Judges are not accountable to anyone for their actions. Nor should they be: their independence depends on their immunity from the pressures that sway politicians. But as I have argued before, this requires that judges should not take it upon themselves to correct what they think are bad decisions by elected officials – because when they do, they subvert the democratic process.
In an important and revealing lecture last week, Jonathan Sumption QC explained why judges keep trespassing into areas which ought to be, in all but the most exceptional circumstances, the exclusive preserve of elected politicians. Essentially, it is because they do not recognise that this is what they are doing. Judges, Sumption suggests, do not set out to substitute their judgment for that of politicians. But because they do not think seriously about the importance of respecting the boundaries between the judiciary and the other branches of government, they end up discovering bad legal reasons for quashing policies they don’t like.
The passing of the Human Rights Act has made the situation worse – but it didn’t create the problem. Indeed, Sumption gives some powerful examples of judges substituting their own views for those of Parliament. In a very telling quote, Lord Steyn, the former Law Lord, justifies judicial activism on the grounds of the deficiencies inherent in the British electoral system.
Sumption comments that he “cannot be the only person who feels uncomfortable about the implicit suggestion that it is the function of the judiciary to correct the outcome of general elections”. He certainly is not: many judges would probably feel uncomfortable about it too, if they thought about it. The trouble, as Sumption suggests, is that they don’t.
Sumption is a famously formidable barrister, currently acting for Roman Abramovich in his battle with Boris Berezovsky. He’s also been appointed to the Supreme Court, a post he will take up as soon as that case concludes. Will he be able to persuade his fellow justices to share his sensible view of the limits of judicial power?
He may already have one ally in Lord Brown, who in a dissent that I reported on early last month, expressed alarm at the willingness of his colleagues to take what were essentially political decisions. Sumption may, however, find it difficult to persuade the other justices, none of whom is exactly celebrated for their ability to recognise that they are wrong about anything of significance.
Still, if anyone can persuade the majority of the 12-man court to think more carefully about trespassing into the political realm, it is Sumption. I dearly hope he succeeds. Because if he fails, the politicisation of the judiciary will only proceed further.
David Cameron goes to war on Britain’s ‘coasting schools’
Britain is facing a “hidden crisis” because schools in prosperous areas are failing to push middle-class children to reach their full potential, David Cameron warns today.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister says there is a “shocking gap” between the best and worst schools and their teachers as many “coast” and “muddle through”.
He says the “secret failure” of comprehensive schools in wealthy shires and market towns is as significant as the problems facing schools in deprived, inner-city areas.
The shortcoming has been hidden from parents because league tables identify only problem schools rather than institutions achieving average results when their pupils have the potential to be top achievers.
In today’s article, Mr Cameron discloses that tackling the “coasting comprehensives” will be a top priority for the Government. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new chief inspector of schools, is said to have them “in his sights”.
Mr Cameron writes: “Why should we put up with a school content to let a child sit at the back of the class, swapping Facebook updates? Or one where pupils and staff count down the hours to the end of term without ever asking why B grades can’t be turned into As. Britain can’t let weak schools smother children’s potential.”
He says that while it is “relatively easy” to identify problem schools, it is just as important to tackle those that are resigned to mediocrity.
“It is just as important to tackle those all over the country content to muddle through — places where respectable results and a decent local reputation mask a failure to meet potential,” he writes.
“Children who did well in primary school but who lose momentum. Early promise fades. This is the hidden crisis in our schools — in prosperous shires and market towns just as much as in the inner cities.”
In January, new league tables will be published that will show how low-, middle- and high-achieving children are performing in their schools.
In June, a new national pupil database will be introduced to show how pupils have progressed during their time in school. The data will not disclose any names but should allow parents to identify schools that are better at pushing certain pupils in different subjects.
Mr Cameron writes: “This challenge is one for all parts of the country — places where governors, parents and teachers might never guess things might be wrong. That’s why it is vital to shine a spotlight on secret failure by giving people the information they need to fight for change.
“The last government shied away from the problem. It kept huge amounts of data under wraps — focusing only on league tables which seemed to show things were getting better every year. It set a narrow definition of coasting schools which allowed many to slip through the net undetected. By contrast, this Government is going to widen it so that more average schools are pressed to do better.”
The Prime Minister says Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, one of the most deprived areas in Britain, is now achieving far higher marks than comprehensives in middle-class areas across the Home Counties.
“The point of education is to change lives — it’s not good enough for teachers in shire counties to be satisfied with half of children getting five good GCSEs, when Mossbourne Academy achieves 82 per cent in Hackney,” writes Mr Cameron.
“When people involved in education can see what needs to be done to get out of a rut — and are given the freedom to make their own choices rather than orders from above — dramatic improvement is possible. Goffs School in Cheshunt, for instance, went from barely half its pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths, to almost three quarters in a single year.”
It is understood that the Government has decided against sending “hit squads” into comprehensives identified as “coasting”. Ministers instead hope that by publicly identifying failing schools, parents and governors will put staff under intense pressure to improve standards.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the incoming head of Ofsted, previously warned that the watchdog needed to do more to tackle teachers who were coasting.
He said extra effort was needed to identify “the teacher … who year in, year out just comes up to the mark, but only just, and does the bare minimum”.
The Government is also giving permission for dozens of new free schools, effectively independent schools paid for by taxpayers within the state system, across the country. Mr Cameron says he wants these schools to be the “shock troops of innovation” who will “smash through complacency”.
The Coalition is also relaxing admissions and expansion rules for successful schools, which is expected to lead to an increase in grammar school places.
Yesterday, it emerged that some grammar schools are planning to take over schools in neighbouring towns — effectively leading to the creation of the first new grammar schools since the 1960s.
Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservatives’ backbench 1922 Committee, said it was a “small but important step”.
Brit fired for telling the truth about crime
“A tourism boss who slated an area he was paid £60,000 a year to promote has been sacked after a three month probe into his comments.
Neil McCollum was head of tourism for the London borough of Greenwich and responsible for the area’s Olympic welcome strategy when he branded a nearby district ‘unsafe’ in a Twitter rant earlier this year.
Mr McCollum tweeted: ‘Guest appearance in Woolwich today. Wonder if it has changed. ‘Mental note: Make sure wallet is not visible!’
The area is understood to have issues with low-level crime and has undergone several redevelopments.
Several residents backed the council’s decision with messages posted on the internet. One wrote: ‘Regardless of the truth that Woolwich has a crime problem, his job was to paint the whole borough in the best possible light and in that he failed.’
But others criticised the council. One message said: ‘He’s an idiot for posting every thought that pops into his head on Twitter but what he said is correct.’
Perfume too sexy for Britain
It’s only a perfume:
“A perfume advertisement featuring teen actress Dakota Fanning has been banned on the basis it appeared to ‘sexualise a child’.
The actress is 17, but she looked younger in the magazine ad for ‘Oh Lola!’, where she was sitting on the floor with the perfume bottle between her thighs.
The scent is the creation of U.S fashion designer Marc Jacobs, who said he chose the young actress because she could be a ‘contemporary Lolita’.
The perfume was made by the global beauty brand Coty, which has previously come under fire for its use of sexual imagery.
The ASA said the ‘Oh, Lola!’ advertisement showed Dakota Fanning, sitting on the floor, alone, wearing a pale coloured thigh length dress. ‘We noted that the model was holding up the perfume bottle which rested in her lap between her legs and we considered that its position was sexually provocative,’ it said.