Norfolk dentist denies double charging scam

Two dentists - including one from Norfolk - have told a jury they never intended duping the NHS out of �46,000 in an alleged double charging scam.

Dr Werner Muller, 45, of Field Dalling Road, Bale, near Fakenham, and Dr John Atkinson are accused of fraudulently billing the NHS for private work they did at the Clarendon Road dental practice, in Hinckley, Leicestershire.

The prosecution alleges they played the system to their own advantage for a year-and-a-half after new NHS contracts for dentists were introduced in 2006.

Giving evidence in their defence, both dentists told Leicester Crown Court that the system was confusing and they did not know they were doing anything wrong at the time, and did not act dishonestly.

The new NHS contracts involved dentists being paid an amount agreed in advance for carrying out a set number of NHS treatments, or Units of Dental Activity (UDA).

They were said to have committed the alleged fraud to prevent them having to pay money back to the NHS for not reaching their agreed UDA targets.

Muller, who is accused of duping the NHS out of �26,046, denies 20 charges of false accounting, relating to 140 fraudulent claims to the health service for work done privately.

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He told the court he did not deliberately manipulate the system to disguise private work that was being paid for by the NHS.

Under cross-examination, Muller said: 'I don't agree it was a scam.'

Kevin Dent, prosecuting, asked: 'Why record the same thing two different ways?'

Muller, a married father-of-four, replied: 'I don't know. That's the way I was shown. I didn't try to conceal anything.

'There were so many changes. There was so much confusion.'

He said he believed, at the time, UDAs were for 'monitoring' work done.

Atkinson, 64, a married father-of-six and a grandfather-of-five, denies 17 counts of false accounting, involving �20,269 and 91 fraudulent claims to the NHS, during 2006 and 2007. He said in hindsight his interpretation of the guidelines was 'absolutely wrong', but he had put his patients before targets – if they wanted something better they would pay a premium on top of the standard NHS fee.

He said: 'I was giving the patient the option of topping up their NHS entitlement.

'Morally, even now, I don't think I've done anything wrong at all.

'I was doing this to benefit the patient because they got the best treatment at the best price.'

Both defendants also deny evasion of liability by deception and fraud, relating to their alleged manipulation of the computerised billing system.

Kevin Dent, prosecuting, earlier told the court: 'They were having their cake and eating it at taxpayers' expense.'

Muller was on a �271,000 NHS contract at the time, and Atkinson, of Finham Road, Kenilworth, on a �135,000 contract.

Both were self-employed associates at the dental practice in Hinckley.

The trial continues

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