A hospital has admitted the way its baby scans payments was handled “fell well short of the standards expected”. Families have been handing over money for photos of their foetuses at St George’s Hospital, Tooting – but the cash had not been put in its trust’s bank accounts.
Up to 7,000 expectant parents a year visit the unit, for their 12- and 20-week scans, and can buy a maximum of three ultrasound images, per session, of their developing babies, for £3 each.
But the money had not been properly lodged in a central hospital trust account.
The same bank account was used to deposit payment for other services, such as study courses run by the same department.
The St George’s University Hospitals NHS foundation trust said there had been no fraud but admitted that investigations found its money-handling systems “fell well short” of expected standards.
There have been no internal disciplinary procedures following the inquiry. St George’s University Hospitals NHS foundation trust was responding to a freedom of information request asking for the total sum made from pre-term scan photos for the past five financial years.
The trust said: “We are unable to provide a figure because deposits were made into a non-trust bank account which received monies from scans, as well as from delegates paying to attend study days organised by the foetal medicine unit.
“These different account streams cannot be separated.
“We take allegations of this nature extremely seriously.
“Following an internal investigation undertaken by the trust’s counter-fraud team, and an independent external investigation, we can confirm that no evidence of fraud has been established.
“However both investigations concluded that some of our systems for collecting and handling money were not robust and fell well short of the high and scrupulous standards we expect.
“This is not acceptable and we have worked with the service to ensure lessons are learned and to put the correct systems in place.
“Finally we would like to stress that no concerns whatsoever have been raised about the standard of care our foetal medicine service provides.
“Women using the service will continue to receive a high standard of care when visiting St George’s, as they do currently.”
A new system has now been introduced, with payments being made by card only. In response to the freedom of information request from the Guardian newspaper, the trust said:
“Prior to this payments were made in cash which was collected and paid into a non-trust bank account up until June 2015. “This practice was stopped and from June 2015 payment was still collected in cash but deposited into a trust account.”