A SPECIALIST scientist and his team who were jailed after defrauding the NHS out of £1.1million have been ordered to pay back more than £500,000.

Heart consultant John Mulholland and three of his staff billed Basildon Hospital for 14,000 hours of work they never carried out as perfusionists, operating specialist heart and lung machines during surgery.

The team worked at the trust from July 2007 to November 2011 and fraudulently earned £430,000.

Private work they carried out at other hospitals during the time netted them more than £700,000.

Mulholland, 43, Martin Oliver, 39, Ann Clements, 53, and Tom Cumberland, 44, were jailed in 2012.

Yesterday, Judge David Owen-Jones ordered that £520,000 be paid back to the NHS, including £168,000 to Basildon Hospital, at a proceeds of crime hearing at Basildon Crown Court.

Some £57,000 will be given to the public purse. and Mulholland was also ordered to pay £75,000 in court costs.

The court heard that Mulholland is to sell his £450,000 house in London and use his half of that money to pay the NHS.

Mulholland was ordered to pay £214,000, Oliver must pay £101,000 while Cumberland was ordered to pay £105,000. Clements must pay £156,000.

If they do not pay, Oliver, Cumberland and Clements could spend 18 months in prison, while Mulholland could receive a 21-month prison sentence.

Basildon Hospital finance director Rick Tazzini said: “This hearing and the criminal sentences the offenders received sends a clear message to those who defraud the NHS out of scarce resources; commit fraud and you will be taken to task.”

The hospital has since introduced strict controls designed to prevent such fraud occurring again,including electronic attendance logs.

Sue Frith, managing director of NHS Protect, which launched the investigation into the fraud, said: “This is a good day for the NHS and taxpayers. John Mulholland stole hundreds of thousands of pounds from the NHS, money which should be spent on patient care. Their greed has let down the thousands of honest and dedicated NHS workers, who provide care to millions every day.”

At the time of the fraud, Mulholland, Clements and Oliver lived in fashionable Limehouse, East London, while Cumberland lived in Westbury Road, Penge.