NHS Fraudsters – Pay Back Money or Stay In Jail

Another day, another National Health Service procurement-related fraud. But perhaps we should give credit to the anti-fraud teams in the NHS, such as NHS Protect, who in this case have continued to pursue the criminals to recover money for the taxpayer. In a recent case, four operating theatre technicians who defrauded the NHS and were originally prosecuted in 2014 have been told to repay £650,000 or face longer jail sentences.

This is an interesting case from a procurement point of view, as it was an unusual type of fraud and would have been quite difficult to spot. The four technicians prosecuted were employees working as perfusionists, keeping key machines running during critical surgery at Basildon Hospital’s Thoracic Centre. But they also had their own private firm, London Perfusion Science Ltd (LPS), and, as the onmedica website reports:

Ringleader John Mulholland, an expert in his field who has published papers in international journals, 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”.

So the work done at other hospitals was carried out by staff who were employees of Basildon – but the work was billed to those clients by the private firm, LPS. The junior staff were not paid by LPS but Mulholland signed off some extra payment for them from the Basildon budget. (You would think those junior staff must have known something was dodgy here? Perhaps that is how the fraud was eventually discovered). But the net result was millions of pounds for the LPS conspirators, while Basildon only got 55% of the contracted hours that were supposed to be worked by the team.

At first we read this fraud as Basildon being “over-billed”, which in a sense they were, but by their own staff, not by a “supplier”. The standard supplier over-billing is difficult to spot when it is specialist contractors involved, as they often don’t get a lot of close management – so who knows whether they worked for 20 hours this week or 30? But this was different, with the fraud being based on employees “moonlighting” and defrauding their employer, so perhaps it is really a HR fraud rather than a procurement incident!

However, looked at from the other hospitals' point of view this was supplier-related and therefore a procurement issue in some sense - although they did actually get the work done that they paid for. You might wonder how the other hospitals using LPS didn’t pick up on the issue sooner. Could they not have checked LPS and found that the directors were employed by another Trust? But maybe that was not obvious, and one assumes the staff used did not broadcast the fact that they were employees at Basildon. It is certainly an argument for carrying out effective due diligence on suppliers, and perhaps looking into the background of directors where possible.

Anyway, Mulholland was sentenced to 3 years in prison originally but will get another 21 months unless he pays back £650,000. His partners in crime face another 18 months if they don't pay up, so let's hope the NHS does recover some cash here.


Share on Procurious

Voices (3)

  1. John:

    It would be nice to know if the money was repaid or did they go back to prison?

  2. Sam Unkim:

    Yep. Seems like it’s getting worse.

    Used to be just the MPs, local councillors, charities, police, armed forces & clergy, now it seems everyone’s at it.

  3. Final Furlong:

    The NHS is a giant smorgasbord for fraudsters. A complete lack of visibility and control. Most are caught because of sheer complacency.


Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.