Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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Cumbrian man jailed for benefits fiddle suing NHS over 19-year misdiagnosis

A Silloth man who was jailed for fiddling his benefits is suing the NHS for £500,000, claiming that a “misdiagnosis” left him fearing an early death for 19 years.

Leigh Neilly photo
Leigh Neilly

Father-of-two Leigh Neilly, 43, says that the trauma of believing he had terminal motor neurone disease (MND) destroyed his life.

He first got the diagnosis in 1991 but it was not until 2010, when he was under investigation for benefit fraud, that doctors confirmed he was in fact suffering from a similar but “less life threatening” condition called Hirayama’s Disease, characterised by limited muscle wasting.

In 2012, a jury found Mr Neilly, 43, guilty of failing to infirm the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that his condition had improved.

He was jailed for seven-and-a-half months, and told to repay the £36,825 in benefits.

In legal papers obtained by the News & Star, Mr Neilly claims that when he was just 21 an NHS doctor in Scotland who examined him told him he had a life expectancy of between five and seven years.

He moved to Silloth – a favourite childhood holiday haunt – in the full expectation that he would die there.

The claim says the MND diagnosis was in doubt as early as 2004 but a doctor failed to tell Mr Neilly this.

The claim adds: “Mr Neilly has endured the suffering of contemplation of his death since 1991 to 2010 due to the misdiagnosis and the failure to refer him for further medical opinion.”

Mr Neilly said: “I finally found out that I had Hirayama’s Disease in August 2010. My life, my health and my family’s lives have been destroyed by me receiving a devastating diagnosis of MND. I moved to Silloth to wait for MND to take my life.

“My parents retired and moved to Silloth to be close by and to be there waiting for my condition to inevitably deteriorate as we were all led to believe that it would.”

Mr Neilly, of Wampool Street, Silloth, was prosecuted after investigators filmed him playing golf while claiming disability benefits.

They also filmed him painting a fence, renovating a house and riding a bike with one hand while carrying heavy bags. The jury accepted that his initial claim had not been fraudulent.

His claim is against various NHS organisations, and names several doctors.


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