Published: 07/06/2002, Volume II2, No. 5808 Page 6

Junior health minister Lord Hunt has warned that the government will be making 'no promises' of extra money for the NHS counter-fraud service.

CFS estimates it has saved the NHS£112m since it was set up three years ago, but it is calling for extra resources to increase the financial gains from its work.

Delegates at its second annual conference in London last week questioned Lord Hunt over the issue, highlighting the amount of cash that was being re-invested in patient care. Lord Hunt said: 'There is no doubt the amount of investment we have already made into CFS has paid off handsomely.

As to the future, we face the usual ministerial difficulties. We have got a good settlement but we haven't decided how We are going to split the budget.As the minister responsible for IT, I want to see more investment in IT and also research and development.'

He described CFS director Jim Gee as 'not backwards in coming forward' in the demands for more money. But added: 'We have examined the case carefully but there are no promises.'

Lord Hunt stressed funding would have to be made available at a local level, with senior managers made aware of the longterm benefits of strong anti-fraud measures.

The CFS budget is currently£5.5m a year. It employs 115 staff directly and a further 400 staff work at a local level.

Pharmaceutical companies Generics UK, Kent Pharmaceuticals, Regent-GM laboratories, Goldshield Group, Norton Healthcare and Ranbaxy (UK) are currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over a suspected conspiracy to defraud the NHS, which followed work by counter-fraud staff.

Speaking after Lord Hunt's speech, Mr Gee told HSJ: 'The reason I am asking for more money is not about us lacking the resources to do the work. It is just that given the success we have had, we have to ask whether more money in the budget would mean even greater gains for the NHS.'