Home>Security Matters>Security Matters>NHSCFA national exercise on procurement fraud postponed in wake of COVID-19

NHSCFA national exercise on procurement fraud postponed in wake of COVID-19

28 April 2020

LAST YEAR, the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (CFA) began a national exercise on the prevention of procurement fraud designed to improve the understanding of key areas of fraud risk facing NHS providers and then develop guidance to assist in mitigating the risk. The next phase of the exercise has now been postponed due to COVID-19.

That next phase, consisting of a detailed survey designed to gather information from providers, was due to start next month. The NHSCFA has been monitoring developments around the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential impact of gathering information for the national exercise. There's an awareness that NHS organisations right across the country are facing an unprecedented challenge in responding to COVID-19, so the difficult decision has been taken to postpone the collection of information as part of the national exercise until further notice.

During the first phase of the exercise (which ran from May to July last year), the NHSCFA gathered and collated information from NHS providers on three areas of fraud risk vulnerability: disaggregate spend, contract management and Purchase Order versus Non-Purchase Order spend. This enabled the organisation to obtain a better picture of the level of scrutiny applied to spend at different stages of the procurement process.

Following the collection of this information, the NHSCFA then visited several NHS organisations to meet with heads of procurement, directors of finance and local counter fraud specialists, discuss initial findings and obtain feedback on the exercise. That engagement was both informative and useful.

The second phase of the national exercise saw the launch of eight procurement fraud 'quick guides' on the NHSCFA website. The aim of the these guides is to alert NHS staff to known fraud risks and provide clear and practical information on effective measures that staff and managers alike can take to identify and stop fraud, while also improving their own procurement and finance systems.

Next steps

The plan for the third phase of the exercise, itself scheduled to run from May to July this year, was to gather further information from providers on the same areas of procurement fraud risk and compare it to the data collected last year. 

While the postponement of this third phase represents a setback for the project, the NHSCFA remains fully confident that it can still furnish NHS providers with useful information from the initial information collection conducted back in May-July last year. Indeed, the NHSCFA is currently developing the process for doing this.

The NHSCFA is keen to support the NHS procurement sector as much as it can during this difficult time. Further guidance focusing on COVID-19 has been developed in relation to procurement fraud risks and how to mitigate them. This has been published alongside other advice and guidance on emerging fraud risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

*If practitioners have any concerns over fraud risks in the sphere of NHS procurement they should send an e-mail to: prevention@nhscfa.gsi.gov.uk