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The government needs to get its priorities in order: the NHS is facing bigger problems than fraud

Today the Health Secretary announced the NHS will be piloting a new initiative to tackle fraud within the health service. The government and the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) claim the health service lost an estimated £1.25bn to fraud in 2016/17.

As part of the measures the government has pledged to halve prescription fraud, which is estimated to cost the NHS £256 million a year. It has also claimed there will be greater data sharing between NHS bodies and that 400 counter-fraud professionals will be dedicated to eradicating NHS fraud.

The government hopes these measures will contribute to a saving £300m by 2020.

The National Health Action Party welcomes any actions which save the NHS money and which will see funds redirected to front line services as a result. However, we believe the government has its priorities in the wrong order.

This week NHS Providers has released a report stating that the NHS Trusts are in a worse position to cope with a winter crisis than last year. It makes it clear that austerity is the leading factor in causing this.

Therefore, a first step for the government to take, should it wish to improve patient care and increase NHS efficiency, and save money in the long term; would be to provide – with immediate effect - the 4% real terms year-on-year increase which is necessary for the health service. It should also scrap existing PFI and PF2 contracts which are currently costing the NHS £2bn a year, which is nearly twice as much per year than fraud. As the NHS is locked into paying back that debt until 2050 we believe this would have a greater effect in terms of making sustainable savings that do not endanger patient safety.

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