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By email only to Secretary of State for Health Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
April 17th 2014
Dear Secretary of State
Re Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Foundation Trust
We are sorry to have to write to you yet again especially over Easter with regard to an NHS whistleblower, but we believe we should bring your attention urgently to the situation within the forenamed Trust, which has been ruthless and we believe is continuing in its aggressive approach towards anyone who dares speak up for patients.
I (Kim Holt) became aware of problems within Alder Hey around 5 years ago when I was approached for advice with regard to a false referral to a psychiatrist. Mr Ahmed was falsely claimed to be suicidal, and referred for a psychiatric opinion. He was not at all suicidal but had been raising concerns regarding unsafe surgical practice that placed children at risk.
He has endured five years of persistent attempts to discipline or discredit him, periods of suspension and sick leave, and has been prevented from continuing in his surgical specialty, which he was very good at and loved. This in itself is not only cruel but a waste of public money.
The ruthless approach towards whistleblowers at Alder Hey then spread to another surgeon Professor Jesudason who tried to support Mr Ahmed. The Trust then turned on Mr Jesudason. He has now had to leave his post and will probably never work again in surgery.
The CQC have recently inspected the Trust and raised serious concerns about some aspects of safety. The two surgeons’ concerns have been vindicated but they remain unable to find other work in surgery.
We now understand that Alder Hey are racing to discipline and likely dismiss Mr Ahmed on a dubious charge related to a patient concern that he himself brought to light. We believe that the Trust are pursuing a hearing against Mr Ahmed despite his being declared unfit to face them because of the trauma that he has experienced.
We believe that the Medical Director who has led the charge against Mr Ahmed is now himself on sick leave and, further, that the Trust Chief executive has insisted that hearings go ahead in Mr Ahmed’s absence despite warnings from the BMA that this will contravene natural justice and precipitate an unfair dismissal claim. These breaches of what might be thought of as reasonable and fair HR practice are typical in whistleblowing cases. It leaves those who raised concerns vulnerable and at the mercy of their employer.
We believe that this case needs a full and open independent and judicial led inquiry, because of the complexities at this stage and the numbers of different laws that we believe may well have been broken. This is a stark example of the worst treatments meted out against whistleblowers, and will demonstrate much of the injustice that goes on behind closed doors and which we believe need a public airing.
Some time ago we wrote to you requesting that you commission an interrogation of our case files. Sadly you declined to do this, which was a missed opportunity. There is a lot of injustice happening to health professionals who have raised concerns and sadly Alder Hey is not the only Trust to take such a worrying approach.
We are now of the opinion that a full judge led Public inquiry into whistleblowing is the only way that mistakes made can be understood and learned from, and that it is possible to forgive and move on with some sort of restorative justice. The situation cannot go on as it is. You have been quoted as saying that there will be no more cover-ups in the health service. The proper protection and support of whistleblowers will ensure that is the case.
Please could you in the immediate term, stay the on going proceedings against Mr Ahmed at Alder Hey, and commission an inquiry both into the Trust’s actions, but also more generally into NHS whistleblowing.
As I am sure you are aware, Patients First consists entirely of volunteers. We would love to be able to return to our normal work which in most cases is frontline NHS work. This campaign risks overwhelming us at the moment due simply to the volume of contacts that we receive.
Finally, we would urge you not to rest on reassurances sought from the Trust itself. Time and again, we have found those to be hollow – leading only to the next revelation.
We have held back from writing this letter, but in the light of what we have learnt since last writing to you we have no hesitation in doing so.
Kim Holt (Chairperson) Roger Kline (Director)
Dr Phil Hammond Patron of Patients First
Also agreed by;
Jennie Feccitt RN, BSc (Hons), Specialist Practitioner (Adult Nursing), NMP, PGCECommittee Member, Associate Lead Nurse Patients First
Professor Ed Jesudason Reader in Paediatric Surgery University of Liverpool.
Professor Brian Jarman Imperial College London.
Dr Peter Wilmshurst Consultant Physician Patients First.