NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fraud and Waste in British National Health Service

December 6, 2001

Between $10 billion and $14 billion of the British National Health Service budget is lost through waste, fraud and inefficiency, according to a recent report. Stuart Emslie, a risk control expert at the Department of Health, told a meeting of health experts last month that between 16 percent and 20 percent of the government's $77 billion annual budget was being lost.

Among the losses:

  • Between $1.4 billion to $4.3 billion are lost through fraud such as patients falsely claiming free prescriptions and dentists charging for treatment not carried out.
  • Almost $3 billion are lost because of "bed blocking" by elderly people who do not need acute care but cannot be discharged because they have nowhere to go.
  • Almost $3 billion go to sick pay and agency nurses-- 40 percent of the sickness being caused by back injuries to nurses who tried to lift patients incorrectly.
  • Just under $1.5 billion is required to treat hospital-acquired infections.

The annual losses more than wipe out the extra $7.2 billion a year which the Treasury would need to pump into the NHS to meet the prime minister's pledge to match average spending on health in other European countries.

Source: Rosie Waterhouse and David Cracknell "Fraud and Waste Cost NHS £7bn a Year," Sunday Times, December 2, 2001.


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