dentist
Figures reveal that dental fraud costs taxpayers around £73m a year Getty

A new independent organisation has been set up to tackle "despicable" acts of fraud after figures show it costs the NHS more than £1bn (€1.14bn) a year.

The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) has been tasked to "lead the fight" in fraud, bribery and corruption in the health service including falsifying prescription costs, payroll fraud and even employers claiming money for work they have not done.

Announcing the launch of the new body, the NHSCFA claims fraud costs the NHS a total of £1.25bn a year – enough money to pay for more than 40,000 staff nurses, or purchase over 5,000 frontline ambulances.

This include £270m prescription fraud, where some people falsely claim to be exempt from the £8.60 prescription charge, and more than £73m in dental fraud cost as criminal dentists claim more money than they are entitled to receive for work carried out.

In February 2016, dentist Mark Walewski was jailed for three years he was found charging patients for treatment and then billing the NHS for the same work for six years.

Sue Frith, chief executive of the NHSCFA, said: "People may think it is just a small amount, but in large volumes it adds up and has an impact. It is criminal behaviour.

"It is despicable people would even claim things they are not entitled to. This is money that should be spent on frontline patient care."

Simon Hughes, Interim Chair of NHSCFA, said: "Every fraud takes a service away from someone that needs it.

"This reality must be faced. We can all play our part in turning the tide, ensuring public money pays for services the public needs and doesn't line the pockets of criminals.

"We all use the NHS and will all benefit from securing its resources. Simply reporting your concerns is a powerful action to protect healthcare.

"Establishing the NHS Counter Fraud Authority strengthens our resolve in fighting fraud, bribery and corruption, protecting healthcare and supporting the many thousands of dedicated heath staff, suppliers and contractors."