It has been a momentous year for the NHS and health sector since International Fraud Awareness Week (IFAW) 2019. The anti-fraud week is more important than ever in 2020, with the NHS needing every penny to be used for patient care during the pandemic.

The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA), the national level body leading the counter fraud effort for the NHS in England and supporting it in Wales, is once again supporting this growing global event. It has distributed a suite of materials to all allies in the fight against fraud throughout England and Wales, not least at the local NHS level.

Sue Frith, CEO of NHSCFA says, "At the NHSCFA we understand that people throughout the NHS are putting in a stupendous effort to deliver care and check the spread of Covid-19; and that of course can make it hard to give the usual level of attention to fraud. But I am calling on all NHS organisations, with the help of our materials, to play an active part in International Fraud Awareness Week, to amplify the year round message that we cannot let criminals undermine what the NHS can deliver for patients."

NHSCFA has provided a range of new awareness resources to help NHS bodies develop their own newsletter articles, press releases or other content to support IFAW.

Over 110 NHS organisations supported IFAW publicly last year, many of them using dedicated campaign resources developed by the NHSCFA.

Anyone with a genuine interest in countering fraud can join in: NHS employees, contractors, agency workers or volunteers in any NHS or related organisation in England and Wales – or a related organisation of any kind, from a union to a professional network to a small informal social group. LCFSs (Local Counter Fraud Specialists), nominated Fraud Champions, NHS communications professionals, Directors of Finance/Chief Finance Officers and Audit Committee Chairs are all playing a part.

Frauds in focus for NHSCFA

NHSCFA’s focus this year for IFAW 2020 includes tackling mandate fraud, procurement fraud and recruitment fraud but ALL types of fraud against the NHS require continued vigilance and a good level of awareness. This is based on recent fraud trends identified by the NHSCFA and its stakeholders. But conditions and priorities vary depending on the health body.

While NHSCFA’s clear focus is the protection of NHS resources from fraud and related economic crimes (which is the remit of NHSCFA), IFAW is also the opportunity to spread the word about how individuals can protect themselves from fraud too. The focus for frauds against individuals includes phishing and investment fraud. One example of this is NHSCFA’s “Don’t get hooked by phishing criminals” banner, a reminder that your work emails as well as personal ones are targeted. Because individuals protecting themselves and their organisations go hand in hand. Criminals will try to deceive individuals as their stepping stone to access NHS systems – and the other way round too.

The materials include links to other resources on the NHSCFA website, such as the NHS Fraud Reference Guide, which clearly describes the many types of fraud against the NHS and how they can be closed down or more quickly spotted and stopped through greater vigilance and applying preventative measures.

We are also encouraging NHS colleagues to contact their Local Counter Fraud Specialist for advice about local fraud awareness initiatives.

Origins of IFAW

International Fraud Awareness Week (IFAW) is an annual campaign started by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in the USA to raise awareness about fraud. Initially it was aimed mostly at business leaders, but the campaign is now supported by both public and private sector organisations all over the world.

Evaluation

To evaluate the success of the IFAW 2020 campaign for the NHS and wider health sector, NHSCFA will use social media monitoring and data analytics of its public website and extranet, as well as qualitative feedback from colleagues and stakeholders. The more you can tell NHSCFA about what you have done to support IFAW the better.

But what has all this got to do with me?

Fraud is the crime you are most likely to experience during your lifetime, yet there is a good chance you will never actually see a fraud happening. Fraud is a hidden crime, as criminals use deception and target weaknesses in people and systems to make a financial gain. Criminals are also increasingly sophisticated in their use of technology, as you may have noticed if you ever received a very ‘believable’ email or letter asking you to send money or provide your financial details.

No individual or organisation is immune from the threat of fraud, and the NHS is no exception. The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) estimates that the NHS is vulnerable to over £1.2 billion of fraud each year – that is equivalent to the cost of 40,000 nurses.

How to report suspicions of fraud against the NHS

It is easy and simple to report fraud. If you have any suspicions or concerns about fraud against the NHS, report them to the NHSCFA at cfa.nhs.uk/reportfraud or by calling 0800 028 4060 (available 24 hours). All reports are treated in confidence, and you have the option to report anonymously. Or you may prefer to raise the matter with your Local Counter Fraud Specialist.