THE DIRECTOR of a family chain of high street pharmacies in South Wales has been sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for deliberately overcharging the NHS for medicines at one of his branches: Talbot Pharmacy at Heol Y Gyfraith Talbot Green, Rhondda Cynon Taf (Cardiff Crown Court, 22 October 2019).
Pharmacist Michael Lloyd (52) of Penllyn, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, repeatedly submitted claims for payment to the NHS that falsely stated he had dispensed a more expensive item than he had actually provided to the patients.
Michael Lloyd is the co-director of Llanharan Pharmacy Ltd, which owns five pharmacy premises across South East Wales.
Lloyd received and processed prescriptions issued to NHS patients in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (CTMUHB) area.
NHS Counter Fraud Service (CFS) Wales was called in to investigate following concerns raised by the health board. Investigations subsequently revealed that on numerous occasions, Lloyd falsely claimed he had dispensed medicines in liquid form to NHS patients when they had in fact received tablets. Drugs in liquid form cost significantly more.
Some tablets for dementia such as Memantine and Donepezil cost as little as £3 but Lloyd claimed for the more expensive liquid formulation, which sometimes cost the NHS as much £300 each time.
Lloyd sometimes altered the prescription forms – which had often already been honestly endorsed by staff to show that tablets had been dispensed – by crossing out their entries to claim for the much more expensive items such as liquids and dissolvable or dispersible tablets.
The prescriptions abused usually originated from genuine handwritten prescriptions issued by hospital doctors at the nearby Royal Glamorgan Hospital. Investigators also identified that Michael Lloyd had falsely claimed for liquids on prescriptions issued to patients by community dental practitioners for painkillers and anti-biotics. However, patients always received the correct medication that they were prescribed.
The NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) supported the investigation. Its Forensic Computing Unit (FCU) assisted in obtaining a forensic image (a complete exact copy) of Talbot Pharmacy’s computer systems.
NHS CFS Wales worked closely with the Pharmacy Team at CTMUHB. Investigators analysed the prescriptions claimed for by Talbot Pharmacy against the computer systems and were able to prove that over 1,500 prescriptions had been falsely claimed for by Lloyd, costing the NHS a total £76,475. They also obtained the tablet packaging provided to a number of patients as further evidence to support this.
Lloyd repaid this amount in full to CTMUHB in May 2019. Earlier, in an interview under caution, he admitted to the offences in a pre-prepared statement.
The other four branches in the business did not appear to have processed their prescriptions in the same way.
Graham Dainty, Operational Fraud Manager of CFS Wales, said today:
“CFS Wales has recently secured several successful prosecutions of NHS professionals who have defrauded NHS Wales. Pharmaceutical practitioners work in a key position of trust. Michael Lloyd abused his position as a pharmacist to deliberately defraud NHS Wales over an extended period of time. A dishonest minority are harming the reputation of the honest majority of pharmaceutical practitioners. This case shows that fraud will not be tolerated in NHS Wales and that suitable criminal, civil and disciplinary sanctions will always be pursued when appropriate”.
Sue Frith, CEO of the NHSCFA, said today: “This case is a shocking example of pharmaceutical contractor fraud, which is a priority action area for the NHSCFA this year. We were pleased to support NHS CFS Wales in this investigation, and our counter fraud teams routinely collaborate closely to ensure there is nowhere for fraudsters to hide. The specialist support of our Forensic Computing Unit helped CFS Wales to confront Mr Lloyd with a mass of hard evidence.
Any suspicion of fraud against the NHS should be reported to the NHS Fraud and Corruption Report Line via NHSCFA’s main website or by telephone on 0800 028 4060. Wherever appropriate, it will be investigated and prosecuted.”
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Local coronavirus restrictions imposed to control outbreaks in South Wales
Coronavirus laws are being tightened in four more Welsh authorities – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport – following a sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething today announced.
The new measures will come into force at 6pm on Tuesday 22 September 2020, to protect people’s health and control the spread of the virus in the four local authority areas.
The new restrictions will apply to everyone living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport:
People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households;
All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm;
Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public areas – as is the case across Wales.
From 6pm on Tuesday 22 September, the requirement for all licensed premises to close at 11pm will also be extended to Caerphilly borough.
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:
“Following the decision to place additional coronavirus restrictions in place in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, we have seen a worrying and rapid rise in cases in four other south Wales council areas – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.
“In many cases, this is linked to people socialising indoors without social distancing. We are seeing evidence of coronavirus spreading. We need to take action to control and, ultimately, reduce its spread and protect people’s health.
“It’s always a difficult decision to introduce restrictions but coronavirus has not gone away – it is still circulating in communities across Wales and, as we are seeing in parts of South Wales, small clusters can quickly cause real issues in local communities.
“We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones.”
The restrictions are being introduced following a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in coronavirus, which have been linked to people meeting indoors, not following social distancing guidelines and returning from summer holidays overseas.
The Welsh Government will call an urgent meeting of all local authority, health board and police forces from Bridgend to the English border tomorrow to discuss the wider situation in South Wales and whether further measures are needed across the region to protect people’s health.
The new local restrictions measures will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police.
Keep Wales safe by:
Always keeping your distance
Washing your hands regularly
Working from home wherever you can
Following any local restrictions
Following the rules about meeting people
Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.
Welsh legislation will restrict those travelling from hotspot areas
MARK Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, has today announced legislation which will restrict those coming from coronavirus hotspot’s from travelling to Wales.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has refused to impose rules which prohibit those from areas where the infection rate is high from entering low virus rate areas’s.
Mr Drakeford has made two requests to the Prime Minister requesting to impose rules which will mean those from high virus areas in England be prohibited from travelling to Wales, a request which has been denied by Mr Johnson.
The powers set by Mr Drakeford will come into force by the end of the week, unless Boris Johnson takes action sooner.
Speaking at the Plenary today, Mr Drakeford made the announcement, stating if Mr Johnson does not reply to his request by Friday then The Welsh Government will bring in legislation to restrict travel from those in English lockdown areas travelling to Wales.
Mr Drakeford said this was not a case of all those from England being restricted travel to Wales, just hotspot areas.
He said: “Evidence from public health professionals suggests coronavirus is moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales. As a general rule, it is concentrating in urban areas and then spreading to more sparsely populated areas as a result of people travelling.
“Much of Wales in now subject to local restriction measures because levels of the virus have risen and people living in those areas are not able to travel beyond their county boundary without a reasonable excuse. This is designed to prevent the spread of infection within Wales and to other areas of the UK.
“We are preparing to take this action to prevent people who live in areas where there are higher Covid infection rates across the UK from travelling to Wales and bringing the virus with them.
“I am determined to keep Wales safe.”
The legislation, which is understood to come into force Friday, October 16 at 6pm, will mean those travelling to Wales from areas of England which are classed as virus hotspot’s will be restricted.
The new legislation also restricts those travelling into Wales from high virus prevalence areas from Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament – Paul Davies MS – has rounded on the First Minister over a ban on people entering Wales from England, and the Labour Party’s inability or unwillingness to publish comprehensive data proving that transmission rates are accelerating due to travel.
Mr Davies took the First Minister to task during Plenary today (October 14), and referred to a statement made by the leader of the Labour Party on September 23 when he said that the Welsh Government was not seeing any spikes at all in infection due to travel and tourism.
Mr Davies said that the people of Wales deserve to have sight of the data that underpins the Welsh Labour-led Government’s position on this matter, so that they can be confident that the Government’s actions are proportionate to the threat of the virus in their area.
Mr Davies also referred to a paper that accompanied the First Minister’s letter to the Prime Minister yesterday, a paper – that was not peer-reviewed – that confirms the data “…does not constitute definitive proof” in favour of a travel ban.
Mr Davies said: “The First Minister and his Government have acted rashly and without examining a range of other factors before a conclusion on whether to impose a travel ban or not is reached, while at the same time seemingly ignoring the fact that transmission rates in relation to travel had already peaked in August and September.
“It is incumbent on the First Minister to explain just why he has chosen to act in this way, and what supporting evidence he and his Ministers have seen to justify a ban and then publish it so it can be properly scrutinised.
“If he cannot or will not, then he must review and rescind this ban immediately.”
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