• NHS Protect’s role to change from “direct operational support” to “standard setting, benchmarking and assurance”
  • Body wants to address risk that NHS boards would “not properly take ownership of local anti-crime risks”
  • However, its business plan for 2015-16 stressed the importance of local support and training, and made no reference to services being withdrawn

Support and training that helps NHS trusts prevent fraud and other crimes is to be axed next financial year, HSJ has learned.

A notice sent to trusts by NHS Protect, seen by HSJ, said the organisation’s role would change from “direct operational support” to “standard setting, benchmarking and assurance”.

arrested, crime, punishement, penalised

arrested, crime, punishement, penalised

NHS anti-fraud support and training has existed since 1999

The notice said local support work and training for anti-crime specialists “had been successful”, and “boards of local NHS organisations should now have the necessary knowledge and capacity to deal with the crime threats that they face”.

It added: “If these services continued, there is a risk that NHS boards would not properly take ownership of local anti-crime risks.”

NHS Protect is one of the organisations that falls outside NHS England’s ringfenced budget, which are subject to cuts of 21 per cent over five years. The arm’s length body did not respond when asked if budget cuts were a factor in the service withdrawal.

Its business plan for 2015-16 had stressed the importance of local support and training, and made no reference to the work nearing completion, or being withdrawn.

It said: “Those we train in anti-fraud and security management measures leave the training centre with an advantage over those trained elsewhere, providing a tangible benefit to the NHS which is not otherwise obtainable.

“NHS Protect provides continuing professional development to NHS anti-crime specialists through a series of key skills development and subject specific modules. These essential personal development opportunities are not available anywhere else in the NHS.”

Anti-fraud support and training services have existed since 1999, and security management since 2004.

NHS Protect employs 160 people, but said it was difficult to disaggregate the number directly involved in support and training.

A spokesman said it was “not in a position” say how many jobs were at risk. Its budget this year is £10.4m, and the spokesman also said it was unable to state its expected or draft budget for 2016-17.

One trust executive told HSJ he was “surprised” by the decision as “we all know trusts make good use of the operational teams’ support and advice”.

A local counter fraud specialist said he did not anticipate the cuts having an adverse impact in his area, as the knowledge and expertise were already in place.

NHS Protect will continue to provide a central capacity for investigations into “complex crime matters” and to have oversight of and monitor anti-crime work across the NHS.