A SPECIALIST heart consultant and three of his staff have been found guilty of charging Basildon Hospital £1million for work they never carried out.

Internationally renowned expert John Mullholland and his colleagues carried out a specialist procedure at the hospital, where they were employed.

However, Mullholland, 40, also owned a private company, London Perfusion Service, which offered the treatment to other hospitals.

Basildon Crown Court heard in a three-month trial, a conflict of interest arose and between 2007 and 2011 the six defendants did not work all their contracted hours at Basildon Hospital.

Instead, they were at other hospitals carrying out private work.

Yesterday, Mullholland, and colleagues Martin Oliver, 36, of Basin Approach, East London, Ann Clements, 50, of Wharf Lane, Limehouse, and Tom Cumberland, 41, of Penge, London, were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud Basildon and Thurrock NHS Trust.

Mullholland, of Copenhagen Place, London, held his head in his hands as the verdict was read out.

The so-called moonlighting fraud took place between February 1, 2007 and November 9, 2011.

They had denied any wrongdoing.

Two other colleagues charged with the same count – Christopher Morris, 32, from Liverpool, and Gemma Deer, 31, of Blackheath, London – were acquitted.

Mullholland, Cumberland, Oliver and Clements will be sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on Wednesday, September 3.

They were all released on bail.

BASILDON Hospital said Mullholland and his three colleagues abused their position of trust.

The defendants were arrested after allegations about them working at other hospitals during their contracted hours.

A spokesman for Basildon and Thurrock NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and welcome today’s verdict as it sends a clear message to those who abuse their position of responsibility to cheat the NHS out of scare resources.

“It is common practice for staff in the NHS to work at different hospitals, but this is on the understanding it does not conflict with their commitments for their main employer.”

The six no longer work at the Essex Cardiothoracic Centre or Basildon Hospital.