Be alert to bogus health care workers: GP Practice warns

October 27, 2014

A recent incident where an elderly Crossmaglen man was targeted by an alleged bogus health professional has become the subject of a police investigation, The Examiner has learned.

The matter has prompted a local GP practice to warn patients to exercise caution if contacted by someone claiming to represent the health service and get in touch with their doctor’s surgery should they have any concerns.

The incident came to light on Wednesday when an elderly gentleman contacted his GP’s surgery to enquire why he was to receive a home visit from a health professional.  It transpired he had received a telephone call from someone purporting to be from “the National Health Service” and saying they would call to his home to discuss the condition of health.  Confused, the patient telephoned his surgery to find out the purpose of the visit.  After checking records, reception staff informed the patient that no such visit by a health professional was planned.

A short time later a nation-wide warning was issued by the Health and Social Care Board informing surgery staff of a number of reported incidents where patients had been contacted by persons claiming to be a doctor or health professional and seeking to sell them alternative health therapies.  This appeared to be a scam and the callers were indeed bogus.

The alert immediately aroused suspicion with staff in the Crossmaglen practice, concerned that the elderly gentleman may have been targeted in the scam.  Consequently, two staff members made their way to the patient’s home a short distance away.  Arriving at the residence, they discovered a man sitting in a car parked outside. They approached the driver who identified himself and displayed a badge with details of what seemed to be an authentic company.  Declaring that he had arranged the visit with the patient, he confirmed the purpose of his call was to offer alternative private health therapies.

The doctor’s staff subsequently reported the situation to the police.

A police spokesman said enquiries into the incident are continuing and added: “Police would always advise that you should never divulge any personal or financial details to an unidentified caller – whether that is on the phone or in person. If you are unsure of the identity of a caller you are entitled to ask them to verify their identity. If you remain suspicious, end the call or meeting and contact us.”

A spokesperson for the GP’s practice said this is a very worrying incident, particularly when the elderly and vulnerable are the target of bogus health care workers.

Urging all patients to be alert regarding unsolicited telephone calls or visits from alleged health professionals, she has advised anyone with concerns to contact their surgery.