• Four Basildon technicians ordered by court to pay for 14,000 hours fraudulently claimed
  • The senior operating technicians used private firm to con NHS out of over half a million pounds
  • Final ruling follows case which has gone on for years
  • Ringleader derided ‘Bas Vegas’ trust ‘like euphoric gamblers after a big win’

Four former Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust employees convicted of defrauding the trust were yesterday ordered to pay £650,000 or face extra prison time.

The four senior operating technicians at the hospital’s cardiothoracic centre were, without the trust’s knowledge, moonlighting at numerous other hospitals as well as duping junior employees.

All were directors of private firm London Perfusion Science, a vehicle they used to work “privately and profitably” at other NHS hospitals at times they were already being paid to work at Basildon Hospital.

The group, who worked the machinery to keep patients’ hearts and lungs functioning while they underwent major surgery, were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the trust following an NHS Protect investigation.

The court determined on 24 November they had only worked 55 per cent of their contracted hours at Basildon, and had failed to work 14,000 hours they had been paid for, following the longest ever trial held at Basildon Crown Court.

NHS Protect, the in-house body which safeguards the NHS from crime, said: “The four perfusionists all held good jobs doing life and death work. However, they abused their highly trusted and respected positions.”

An NHS Protect statement released today said ringleader John Mulholland was sentenced in 2014 to three years’ imprisonment, while his co-conspirators Ann Clements, Tom Cumberland and Martin Oliver were each sentenced to two years.

The statement said: “Mulholland, an expert in his field, assembled the whole perfusionist team to work at Basildon Hospital. From the outset he pushed for a larger perfusion team than was required for the work of the unit and immediately began to use the staff to undertake private work at other hospitals.

“None of the four notified [the trust] of the conflict of interest that clearly arose from their directorships of LPS.

“Junior members of staff were instructed by Mulholland to work at other hospital sites but were never paid a penny by LPS. Instead, Mulholland signed off for them to be paid up to 30 hours a month extra, from the NHS’s budget, as ‘emergency call out work’.”

Judge Owen-Jones ordered the NHS be compensated £519,539.51 and £59,000 be paid to the Treasury. In addition Mr Mulholland was ordered to pay £75,000 in costs to the Crown Prosecution Service, making a grand total of nearly £654,000.

The statement continued: “Unless they pay up within six months, Mulholland will face a default jail sentence of another 21 months in prison. The default sentence for the other three will be 18 months each.”

The investigators said that the trial had been “notorious for the colourful language uncovered by investigators in emails between the fraudsters”.

“At one point they were like euphoric gamblers after a big win, with Mulholland deriding Basildon Hospital, his official place of work, as ‘Bas Vegas’.”

The group began working at Basildon Hospital in summer 2007 at the new cardiothoracic centre, which treated its first patients in July that year.

During the period of the fraud, London Perfusion Science Ltd. provided perfusion services to Imperial College Healthcare Trust, Oxford University Hospitals Trust, St George’s Healthcare Trust, King’s College Hospital FT, University College London Hospitals FT and also to the London Independent Hospital.