As we headed to Birmingham for the Pharmacy Show 2019, the leading conference for the community pharmacy sector (Sunday 6 and Monday 7 October), we were both excited and slightly apprehensive. It was the first time for the NHSCFA exhibiting at the conference, indeed we hadn’t engaged directly with the pharmacy sector at an event of this scale before. We were very much looking forward to speaking to delegates about NHS fraud and our counter fraud work, but we were not sure about the response and the level of interest we would find.
Our message to delegates before the event had been quite simple: come and talk to us. As fraud is by its nature a hidden crime, speaking openly about it is an essential first step towards addressing the threat. We also made it clear that while pharmaceutical contractor fraud is one of our priority action areas for 2019-20, one of our primary aims for the conference was to improve our knowledge of the community pharmacy sector and get a better understanding of how both fraud and counter fraud affect it.
We were certainly not disappointed. Hundreds of delegates visited our stand, interested in finding out more about the NHSCFA and about the fraud risks affecting community pharmacy, and eager to share their insights with us. A common theme emerging from our conversations with pharmacists at the conference was that they wanted to do the right thing and help us fight NHS fraud, with some of them indicating that more specific guidance in some areas would be of benefit.
It was invaluable for us to have face to face conversations with community pharmacists, hear about their commitment to providing an excellent service to patients and find out more about the challenges they face.
Clive Wyke (Senior Fraud Investigator), who worked at the NHSCFA stand during the two days, said: "It was good to meet delegates at the front end of the pharmacy business. To be able to get an insight into what they see as problem areas and issues of concern was extremely useful for taking forward our work on pharmaceutical contractor fraud."
We also had an opportunity to speak with representatives from several of our key stakeholders who were also exhibiting at the conference, including the General Pharmaceutical Council, NHS England and NHS Improvement, and the NHS Business Services Authority.
Most people who visited our stand were also happy to complete a brief survey – their responses, together with the conversations we had, will be vital to informing our work on pharmaceutical contractor fraud as well as other fraud issues affecting the pharmacy sector.
Sue Frith (Chief Executive Officer) said: "Working with community pharmacists and others in the sector is vital for our priority work on pharmaceutical contractor fraud. The Pharmacy Show provided an opportunity to talk to them about NHS fraud and the NHSCFA's work in a positive way and learn more about the issues they face."