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NHS launches counter-fraud investigation over CQC compliance ‘scams’

Exclusive GPs are being approached and asked for hundreds of pounds in payments for Care Quality Commission ‘compliance' support in apparent scams that are being investigated by NHS counter-fraud teams.

This month Wessex LMC, Londonwide LMCs and Cambridgeshire LMC alerted GPs to CQC scams, with some practices asked for up to £300 by company representatives claiming to provide CQC compliance services.

One company attempted to bill practices for a guide they claimed was ‘essential to complete CQC registration', despite the fact CQC standards for general practice have yet to be clarified.

After Pulse reported the scam to the CQC, the regulator has moved to reassure practices that buying in advice won't be necessary to navigate CQC registration. The GPC has previously warned GPs not to deal with any outside firm offering CQC registration services.

NHS Protect, the health service's anti-fraud agency, said it was alerting local teams to the CQC ‘scams' and said it would take ‘preventative action' to prevent more GPs being exploited.

In a ‘scam alert' issued to GPs this month, Wessex LMC said: ‘Practices have been telephone by HCRA (Health Care Research Association) to ‘verify' an ‘order' that was allegedly placed for a publication of the latest ‘Compliance for the NHS Standards 2012 for the CQC rules and regulations' at a cost of £299+VAT. In both cases the practice managers' names were used and they were told that someone from the practice had placed the order.

‘The practice was told that CQC guidance for general practice had just been finalised and went on to say he was merely confirming delivery details. When told it wasn't wanted he went on to say that it was essential to complete CQC registration and that it was the most widely distributed publication of its type, it wasn't mass produced and was tailored to each order. When asked to provide proof the order, he gave up and said he would put the order on hold and the sales team would be in touch.'

At the time of writing, there was no organisation called Health Care Research Association registered with company house.Pulse contacted an 0845 number that the company's salesmen gave to staff. However, staff manning the number told Pulse they had no knowledge of the ‘Health Care Research Association' and said the number belonged to a marketing company called ‘Motivation'.

Cambridgeshire LMC's newsletter states: ‘Sadly there have been an number of practices caught out by scams recently - often spending serious money to be given advice [on CQC registration] that goes far beyond what is actually required of practices.'

An NHS Protect spokesman said: ‘There are a variety of frauds and scams where companies misrepresent themselves, claiming or implying that they are acting on behalf of organisations already known to the client organisation, to obtain payments or to secure business by using their name.

‘Regarding these reported CQC-related calls, NHS Protect is warning all LCFSs (Local Counter Fraud Specialists) across the country to be alert to the issue. New reports of potential scams and frauds are fed into our intelligence function, and where appropriate preventative action is taken.'

A CQC spokesman said: ‘Practices should not pay for any advice or services, either now or when the registration process begins, without checking that they have actually been provided. In any case, we do not believe that it will be necessary for practices to buy in advice to navigate the registration process with CQC.'