The former chief executive of a private hospital group has criticised the NHS Counter Fraud Service and police after his trial for fraud collapsed.

Andrew Breeze, and former finance director Dominic Wilson of Hevingham, Norfolk, were found not guilty of conspiracy to defraud the health service of more than £2m, at the direction of a judge at Ipswich crown court.

The Crown Prosecution Service had said earlier it would offer no further evidence.

The allegations led to the men losing their jobs at Chancellor Care, the firm which ran Cawston Park Hospital in Norfolk.

The trial hung on whether “additional care” charged for some NHS patients at private psychiatric hospitals had actually been delivered.

Several PCTs had commissioned the care.

Mr Breeze, of Thorpe near Norfolk, said the investigation into the case had been incompetent and had assumed he and his co-defendant were guilty.

He said the cost of the three year investigation and seven week trial was likely to be several million pounds.

Mr Breeze, a former board member at a mental health trust with 30 years’ NHS service, said he hoped to return to work in the psychiatric sector.

David Prior, chair of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals foundation trust and former chair of Chancellor Care, said the two men had been through three years of utter misery.

Mr Prior was himself investigated by police but not charged. He stood down temporarily as Norfolk and Norwich chair during the investigation.

“It’s a tragedy that it was allowed to get to court,” he said.

“Before the prosecution case was even finished they had to give up.

“People who have not been through this process can have no idea how debilitating it is.

“It is shameful that it was allowed to happen.”

The NHS Counter Fraud Service said it was too early to comment on the case.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said it was in the public interest to prosecute but conflicting evidence from witnesses during the trial meant there had no longer been a realistic prospect of conviction.

Detective Superintendent Chris Hobley of Norfolk police said: “We are very disappointed by the outcome of these proceedings. However, it was appropriate for the case to be placed before the court.

“The allegations of fraud were very serious and involved large sums of public funds.

“The investigation and the trial proceedings will be the subject of a review as a matter of course.”