Image of a speaker at a conference with the title 'procurement conferences' overlayed.

The NHSCFA recently attended two healthcare procurement conferences to promote the work we are doing on procurement fraud, one of our priority action areas for 2019-20.

The Healthcare Supply Association’s (HCSA) summer conference, which took place on 18 June at Whittlebury Hall near Towcester (Northants), provided a good opportunity to engage with an audience of NHS procurement professionals. This was timely as the NHSCFA is carrying out a national exercise on the prevention of procurement fraud, and the event fell more or less half-way through the first phase of the exercise, where we ask NHS providers to provide information on a number of fraud risk areas (e.g. disaggregate spend).

Procurement teams play a leading role in gathering much of the information requested in the exercise, which is facilitated and supported by Local Counter Fraud Specialists. Speaking to procurement colleagues at the conference it was encouraging to see how supportive they are of the work we do. We knew the exercise places a demand on the time of extremely busy finance and procurement teams, and this was highlighted in some of the conversations we had. However, colleagues also said they found the exercise really valuable in strengthening compliance with procurement rules and reducing the risk of fraud.

Two weeks later, on 4 July, we attended the annual Procurement for Health (P4H) conference at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham. The event is one of the biggest procurement conferences in the country, with delegates and exhibitors coming from a range of different organisations and companies.

Our presence coincided with the launch of our new procurement fraud quick guides - eight guides that focus on specific areas of fraud risk vulnerability in NHS finance and procurement. The guides, which were also produced as part of the national exercise, provide advice on how to spot and prevent fraud from happening. They were a great success at the conference, with delegates showing a great deal of interest in the documents.

Senior Fraud Prevention Officer and procurement fraud lead, Oliver Stopnitzky, delivered a 20-minute presentation where he explained the work of the NHSCFA, and more specifically the work of the Fraud Prevention Unit around procurement fraud. The session, titled ‘Procurement fraud in the NHS’, demonstrated to delegates the risk areas that exist within procurement, and what can be done to mitigate those risks. Delegates were also encouraged to stop by our stand to pick up a copy of the quick guides.

Over the course of the day, we spoke to procurement health professionals from NHS health bodies, suppliers to the NHS and procurement experts. This was another opportunity to engage with NHS procurement teams, as colleagues came over to talk about the national exercise and provide useful feedback. We also tested awareness levels by asking delegates about their knowledge of procurement fraud in the NHS. We surveyed them to find out if their knowledge had increased after visiting our stand, and whether they were aware of our fraud prevention materials and where to access them. The survey results will provide us with a better understanding of what fraud awareness levels there are within the procurement sector and will help with how we ensure we are communicating with them effectively.

Oliver had this to say about both conferences: "The conferences were great opportunities for us to engage with the procurement sector and to discuss the national procurement exercise and counter fraud measures that organisations can adopt to mitigate the risks of fraud. Attending these events gives us a chance to speak to those on ground, those who use our guidance, and enables us to understand how the national exercise is impacting their respective organisations."