Brian Sims

Data-based Project Athena put forward to tackle fraud in NHS

AN INNOVATIVE project designed to find fraud and prevent losses to the NHS through the way in which data is collected has been launched by the NHS Counter Fraud Authority (NHSCFA). Project Athena is a pilot project aimed at both preventing fraud and delivering a dedicated response by identifying patterns in data “on a scale that has never been done before” across the NHS for counter-fraud purposes.

According to an official statement, Project Athena will afford the NHSCFA the expertise to focus on key areas using data analytics. This will mean that more fraud can not only be detected, but also prevented.

Data analytics is already used across the NHS and is growing in importance in a wide range of areas, from health innovation and clinical decision-making right through to patient access. Project Athena will be using data analytics, combined with the practical expertise and knowledge of the NHSCFA, in order to reduce potential fraud losses to the NHS by ensuring that funding goes to where it’s intended (ie patient care).

Project Athena builds on the existing work of the NHSCFA, which is a special health authority leading the fight against fraud, bribery and corruption in the NHS, by increasing the capacity for – and capability to – analyse data.

Critical role

Alex Rothwell, CEO of the NHSCFA, said: “By using analytical techniques and tooling, alongside our deep understanding of fraud perpetrated against the NHS, Project Athena will enable the NHSCFA to reduce losses from fraud so that money is redirected back into patient care.”

Rothwell added: “I’m delighted that the Department of Health and Social Care recognises the critical role counter-fraud professionals play in enabling the NHS to deliver on its core objectives.”

A dedicated team is now being set up to lead the development of Project Athena, which has indeed received the backing of the Department of Health and Social Care. A key focus of the team’s work will be prevention through finding patterns in data which are indicators of fraud.

Data analytics

Health Minister Lord Markham noted: “The Government is determined to crack down on NHS fraud and ensure that every penny of taxpayers’ money is spent on improving patient care. It’s vital that we counter the ever-more sophisticated methods used by fraudsters targeting the NHS.”

Lord Markham concluded: “Project Athena will use the latest data analytics tools to help the NHS stay ahead of the game, not only identifying cases of fraud, but also preventing them from happening in the first place.”

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