Hinckley dentists 'played system to cheat £46,000 from NHS'
Two dentists have gone on trial accused of cheating the NHS out of £46,000.
It is claimed Dr Werner Muller and Dr John Atkinson fraudulently billed the NHS for work they had carried out privately, at the Clarendon Road dental practice in Hinckley.
Muller (45), who is accused of duping the NHS out of £26,046, denies 20 charges of false accounting, relating to 140 fraudulent claims that work was done for the health service when it was done privately.
Atkinson (64) denies 17 similar counts, involving £20,269 and 91 fraudulent claims to the NHS, during 2006 and 2007.
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Both also deny evasion of liability by deception and fraud, relating to their alleged manipulation of the computerised billing system.
Kevin Dent, prosecuting, told the jury at Leicester Crown Court: "They were having their cake and eating it at tax- payers' expense.
"Both defendants have made false claims to the NHS pretending to have carried out certain work on patients under the provisions of the NHS when it had been carried out privately.
"They were double claiming for the same dental work by doing private work and billing the NHS for it."
The prosecution alleges the defendants played the system to their own advantage for about a year-and-a-half after new NHS contracts for dentists were introduced in 2006.
Under the new contracts, dentists are paid an amount agreed in advance for carrying out a set number of NHS treatments, or Units of Dental Activity (UDA).
Mr Dent claimed the defendants "fell into" the alleged fraud to prevent them having to pay money back to the NHS at the end of the financial year for not reaching their agreed UDA targets.
Muller, of Field Dalling Road, Bale, Norfolk, was on a £271,000 NHS contract at the time of the alleged offending, and Atkinson, of Finham Road, Kenilworth, a £135,000 contract, both before tax.
Both were paying 50 per cent of their income to cover the costs of their surgery, equipment and staff. They were self-employed associates at the dental practice doing NHS and private work.
Mr Dent also claimed the dentists persuaded some patients to have private treatment instead of NHS work by wrongly implying the latter was inferior or unavailable.
"Both were consistently advising patients that work would be better quality if done privately and were quite persuasive," he said.
"They're not facing charges for misleading patients but you may think it significant they were encouraging private work.
"Some patients thought they were being treated as NHS patients and the defendants were adept in continuing to let them think they were receiving NHS treatment, but in fact doing private work for private prices.
"Their charges bore no relation to the three different NHS price bands."
The dentists allegedly covered their tracks by failing to provide patients with printed-out treatment plans with relevant costing, apart from three instances in Muller's case.
Mr Dent said: "They broke the fundamental rule that you can't provide work privately and bill the NHS for it.
"Under both the old and the new system, for the last 20 years, there was an absolute bar against charging a private fee on top of an NHS fee for the same treatment.
"You can't top up the NHS rate with a private fee on the same work. You can't add on another £100 or so because you feel the rate is too low."
He claimed the dentists committed the alleged fraud to maintain their income by "providing private crowns, dentures and fillings but pretending it was NHS work".
The trial continues.