The Independent 14 July 2014 ADAM LUSHER
A surgeon was unfairly sacked after complaining about the lack of equipment at his hospital, an employment tribunal has ruled
Arjuna Weerasinghe, 50, said he raised concerns at Basildon Hospital in Essex after being unable to obtain a packing wick to stem an extensive bleed while operating on a patient in 2010.
When the patient died three days later, Mr Weerasinghe compiled an incident report to alert Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to the lack of necessary equipment.
Mr Weerasinghe also claimed he caught pneumonia working in the trust’s operating theatres, which he alleged had not been deep-cleaned for years.
The trust had insisted Mr Weerasinghe was dismissed for gross misconduct in 2012 after hospital bosses claimed he had “misled” them over his illness. But ruling against the trust, the East London employment tribunal noted that Mr Weerasinghe’s disclosures relating to the death of his patient “were a material influence in the decisions… to subject [him] to a disciplinary investigation”.
The case is likely to add to worries about the treatment of NHS whistleblowers, despite Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt demanding that hospital managers stop trying to pressure them into signing gagging agreements.
In a statement on Sunday night, however, the trust seemed to attempt to draw a distinction between the reasons for which disciplinary proceedings started and the reasons for which Mr Weerasinghe was eventually fired.
A spokesman said: “We would like to make it clear that the judge concluded that Mr Weerasinghe was not dismissed for raising issues relating to patient care.”
Addressing claims about cleanliness at Basildon Hospital, the spokesman added: “The trust has made significant improvements to [hygiene] and last month was rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission. The CQC also noted good infection-prevention practices and that hygiene audits completed in theatres showed 100 per cent compliance for the month prior to their visit.”