Divers jailed for NHS bends fraud
A diving school boss has been jailed for swindling £250,000 from the NHS for treating bogus cases of the bends. David Welsh, 49, from Plymstock in Devon was jailed for five years and three months at Plymouth Crown Court.
Diving instructor Michael Brass, 44, from Liverpool, is wanted by the police after skipping bail and was jailed for two-and-a-half years in his absence.
Both were found guilty last year of conspiracy to defraud the NHS and perverting the course of justice.
The court heard how the pair ran the Fort Hyperbaric diving treatment centre at Fort Bovisand in Plymouth.
They billed health trusts for treating 37 fake victims at cost of £6,500 per person.
Jurors were told Welsh paid strangers he met in pubs up to £200 each to pose as divers who needed decompression treatment.
Prosecutors said Welsh and Brass only needed the names, addresses, dates of birth and national insurance numbers of the supposed victims to carry out the fraud.
Their scheme was uncovered when police investigated the cases of two divers from Liverpool who were supposedly treated in a decompression chamber at the Fort Hyperbaric diving centre.
Genuine cases of the bends were also treated in the chamber in Plymouth, the court heard.
The condition is suffered by divers who surface too quickly and suffer nitrogen poisoning in their blood.
Dermid McCausland, of the NHS Counter Fraud Service, said: “This was not a victimless crime.
“For more than four years, these men systematically and shamelessly diverted resources intended for patients requiring emergency decompression treatment, simply to enrich themselves.
“The taxpayer picked up the bill of £6,500 for every treatment these men fraudulently claimed to have given.
“We are now working with the police to pursue compensation orders to get back every penny for the NHS.”