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Fraud investigation focuses on Scotland’s MAS

By Scotland Correspondent

The minor ailment service in Scotland is under the scrutiny of an ongoing investigation by NHS Scotland Counter Fraud Services.
CFS is investigating community pharmacies where trends in registration for the minor ailment service indicate potential fraud.

The first case to result in a criminal charge went to court last week (20 August 2013). Stephen Brown, pharmacist at Omnicare Pharmacy in Deans, Livingston, pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud after registering 40 patients for the minor ailment service without their knowledge or permission. He was fined £340 against a £200 fraud.

Gordon Young, head of CFS, said: “Stephen Brown is a pharmacist who blatantly abused his position of trust to register patients at his place of work, without their prior knowledge or permission and made financial gain fraudulently from it. While the sum defrauded was not a significant amount of money, any fraud against the NHS which abuses the trust of the public will be pursued.”

However, this was partly disputed by Community Pharmacy Scotland. Chief executive officer Harry McQuillan said: “While we cannot condone any fraudulent act, our understanding is that the pharmacist in question made no personal financial gain. . . . It should be remembered that this activity has not cost the NHS any financial burden due to these remuneration arrangements being contained within the global sum.”

On the wider investigation, Mr McQuillan commented: “CPS recently became aware that a series of counter fraud investigations were taking place throughout Scotland. We understand the investigation process is ongoing. As an organisation we have had little visibility over the process itself which disappoints us.” He added: “We have raised our concerns with [the] Scottish Government about the impact this investigation may potentially have on our members’ ability to deliver this and other valued patient services that require patient registration.”

Mr Brown's case has been reported to the General Pharmaceutical Council.

A spokesman for Omnicare Pharmacy said the company had no comment to make about the case.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11124795

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