Published: 10/04/2003, Volume II3, No. 5850 Page 11

The health service has seen a£5m fall in dental emergency-attendance claims since a crackdown on dentists abusing the allowance claims system, the NHS counterfraud service has said.

The NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service made the claim as the High Court ordered a dentist and practice manager to repay£1.3m fraudulently claimed under general dental service regulations. It followed a two-year investigation by the counterfraud service.

The dentist, Mohammed Sheikh and his cousin and practice manager Jamil Ahmad, who owned practices in Nottinghamshire and Derby, have announced they will appeal, claiming they were legally exploiting the GDS fee scale.

Dentists on home visits can claim a maximum of£53.65 if they are required to reopen their surgery for an emergency. But a spokesperson for CFSMS said that since news of the investigation into the pair emerged last year, the NHS had seen claims of this type fall from£14.3m to£9.1m.

'We can't stop people making genuine claims of this sort, but it does seem that we have closed a loophole given the£5m-plus reduction in claims we have seen since dentists first heard we were cracking down on fraud.

'Our dental fraud team is also involved in ongoing investigations of other dentists, but I wouldn't want to comment on operational procedures.'

Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire police are pursuing a criminal investigation against the pair, and the General Dental Council is considering striking them off.

CFSMS chief executive Jim Gee said the case was the first of its kind in which civil, criminal and disciplinary sanctions have been pursued in parallel. 'In the past, these sanctions have been pursued separately and often over an extended period with indifferent results, ' he said.

'In future where fraud is identified, we shall pursue a parallel sanctions policy, seeking to combine civil action to freeze and recover assets, with disciplinary action and criminal sanctions - the case against Mohammed Sheikh and Jamil Ahmad is a good example of how this can be done.'