Belfast Telegraph

Public must help us to identify culprits: Edwin Poots

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Stormont minister Edwin Poots revealed last week that fraud in Northern Ireland's health service could be costing the taxpayer up to a quarter of a billion pounds a year.

The surprising figure represents enough money to build a new hospital, pay for 26,453 coronary heart bypass procedures, 38,525 hip replacements or 7,000 patients receiving renal dialysis treatment.

Mr Poots said: "Fraud is not a faceless crime, especially in the health service, it affects us all.

"It is a criminal offence and every penny lost means less to spend on frontline services.

"Whether it's £1 or £1m, fraud robs the health service of vital resources."

Overclaiming travel expenses, fraudulently attempting to obtain prescription medicine and falsifying the number of hours worked were among the most common examples of fraud.

But it was also noted that more and more people who live in the Republic are hopping across the border and falsely claiming to be resident here in order to secure free treatments.

Mr Poots said that everyone has a part to play in stopping fraud and he called for a greater public role in tackling the issue.

He said: "It is therefore everyone's duty to report fraud or suspected fraud – whether that's through the fraud hotline, through the online reporting tool or indeed through whistleblowing procedures. It's important for the general public to play their part – after all, it is their money that is being wasted."

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