A department set up to train local NHS counter-fraud teams could be closed, HSJ can reveal.

NHS Protect’s training department could be shut by the end of March, the organisation has confirmed.

It is unclear what would happen to the 18 staff at the department, which had a budget of £814,000 in 2015-16.

NHS Protect is part of the NHS Business Services Authority and is charged with investigating serious fraud across the service. Smaller cases are supposed to be investigated locally by trusts’ counter-fraud teams.

HSJ reported last week that the proportion of NHS fraud cases brought to court had declined by three-quarters over the past five years.

NHS Protect’s budget fell from £11.4m in 2011-12 to £10.5m in 2015-16.

The Department of Health created its own anti-fraud unit in November 2014. This was tasked with conducting investigations within the department and arm’s length bodies, “and for national, large or complex cases that it is not realistic for NHS Protect to take on.”

The service is commissioned from the NHS Business Services Authority by the DH. The DH did not comment in time for publication.