The co-director of a family pharmacy chain in south Wales has been sentenced to over a year’s jail time for overcharging the NHS by over £76,000 for medicines, the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA) has reported.

Pharmacist Michael Lloyd, aged 52, of Sycamore House in Penllyn, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan was yesterday (22 October) sentenced to 16 months in prison at Cardiff Crown Court after he submitted fraudulent claims to the NHS for over 1,500 prescriptions.

An investigation by the NHS Counter Fraud Service (CFS) Wales revealed that Mr Lloyd had been ‘deliberately overcharging’ the NHS over a five-year period to ‘boost profits’, the NHSCFA said.

Mr Lloyd processed the fraudulent prescriptions at Talbot Pharmacy at Heol Y Gyfraith Talbot Green, Rhondda Cynon Taf – one of the five branches of Llanharan Pharmacy Ltd in south east Wales.

He repaid in full the £76,475 he owed to Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board (CTMUHB) in May. He had previously admitted to the offences in an interview under caution, the NHSCFA said.


Up to 100 times the price


Mr Lloyd falsely claimed for more expensive items than those he had actually provided to patients, sometimes charging the NHS ‘up to 100 times the real price’ of the medicines, the NHSCFA said.

It added: ‘[He] 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.

‘Some tablets for dementia such as Memantine and Donepezil cost as little as £3 but Mr Lloyd claimed for the more expensive liquid formulation, which sometimes cost the NHS as much as £300 each time.’

The original ‘genuine handwritten prescriptions’ had usually been issued by doctors at the nearby Royal Glamorgan Hospital but Mr Lloyd also fraudulently claimed for liquids on prescriptions issued by community dentists for painkillers and antibiotics, the NHSCFA added.

However, patients always received the correct medication that they were originally prescribed, the counter-fraud body stressed.


Forensic investigation


The NHSCFA’s forensic computing unit helped NHS CFS Wales work with the pharmacy team at CTMUHB to obtain a ‘mass of hard evidence’ against Mr Lloyd, NHSCFA chief Sue Frith said.

A ‘forensic image’ – or complete exact copy – of Talbot Pharmacy’s computer systems enabled investigators to analyse prescriptions claimed for by the pharmacy against those on the computer systems, the NHSCFA added.

The investigators also obtained the packaging of medicines provided to ‘a number of patients’ as further evidence that they had been supplied with the tablets prescribed rather than the more expensive items Mr Lloyd had claimed for, they said.


‘A dishonest minority’


Operational fraud manager of CFS Wales Graham Dainty said: ‘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.’

Ms Frith added that the case is a ‘shocking example’ of fraud by pharmacy contractors, which is the first of four strategic priorities for the counter-fraud body this year.

Last month, NHS England estimated that community pharmacy could be responsible for £111m of fraud per year.