New models for pharmacy services also bring with them the growing dangers of online fraud and cyber crime. But these risks can be managed, writes Rima Evans.

Join us each day this week as we reveal the measures you can take to prevent fraud and protect patient data.

Fraudulent behaviour in the NHS and false claiming of prescriptions are serious and high profile issues - but far from the only sharp practices that can have devastating consequences for the pharmacist sector.

Like any other business, pharmacies can fall prey to retail fraud. And the risks are no longer merely limited to sales at the till.

The growth of e-commerce, which has sparked a proliferation of internet-only pharmacies and encouraged traditional outlets to hybridise, means online fraud and cyber crime now pose very real threats.

The means and methods are many and growing. Since all pharmacists hold sensitive patient data that could be illegally retrieved, no business – whether big or small, online or not - is exempt from attack.

The scale of the overall fraud problem is hard to measure precisely.

However, the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey indicates pharmacists are certainly a target for fraudsters.

The 2014 survey, published in January 2015, was based on a sample 16 per cent of which fell in to the “chemist, healthcare and beauty” category.

Overall, the results showed fraud (across all sectors) is a major and growing threat.

There were 135,814 incidents of fraud reported in 2013-14, an increase of 12 per cent compared to the previous year. They accounted for 37 per cent of the total £603 million cost of retail crime.

Some 30 per cent of retailers said fraud, including cyber-enabled fraud, would be the most significant threat in the next two years.

Currently, the majority of fraud is committed online.

Come back tomorrow as we investigate how fraudsters hack into patient data.