NHS pays 30 times the going rate for cod liver oil

cod liver oil

The Daily Telegraph has revealed that the NHS is paying vastly over-inflated prices for products that are widely available over the counter. This includes £89.90 for extra-strength cod liver oil - which is available in chemists for as little as £3.50

So what's going on?
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Overcharged

The newspaper was contacted by a whistleblower, who also said that vitamin E and evening primrose oil were costing the NHS enormous sums of money.

The products are being prescribed by doctors. The pharmacists can choose the brand they think most appropriate, and charge the NHS for the cost of the products. The whistleblower was claiming that some pharmacists were deliberately choosing products from a small company, which sells branded products for far higher prices than their competitors. They are then able to reclaim more from the NHS for each prescription.

The dispensing of these products is increasing dramatically. The newspaper reported that last August the supplier in question was responsible for 0.2% of the cod liver oil dispensed by pharmacists, by March this year they were supplying 10.7%.

The NHS Business Services Authority oversees the reimbursements system and told the newspaper that these are list prices set by the manufacturer. The manufacturer, meanwhile, emphasised the quality of the products, the transparency of the pricing, and the fact that all products are subject to competition.

This is unlikely to impress taxpayers though - especially as it follows hot on the heels of news this week that drug companies were using a legal loophole to inflate the cost of medicines to the NHS. The drug companies sell medicines to companies which are not part of the government's price regulation programme. These companies then sell the drugs on to the NHS at a much higher price: in some cases more than 27 times the price.

Endemic

The Daily Mail pointed out that this is not the first time that the NHS has been found to be paying over-the-odds. An Ernst & Young study concluded that £500 million was wasted by trusts which overpaid. It found that a box of electric blankets which had been sold to one NHS trust for £47 was sold to another for £120.

The overspending seems to be everywhere. In 2011 we reported that one NHS trust in Wales was paying £32 for a loaf of gluten-free bread on prescription, £12 for a bag of pasta and £7 for biscuits. At the time they blamed administration charges.

And while many people support the ring-fencing of the NHS to protect it from the impact of government spending cuts, there are real concerns that while other areas of government are squeezed to within an inch of their lives, the NHS is allowed to get away with this sort of gratuitous overspending.

It's not going to take many headlines like this before George Osborne starts to seriously consider whether the NHS deserves such generous protection after-all.

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NHS pays 30 times the going rate for cod liver oil

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.
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