I had first written to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State in December 2013. He did not respond. I had previously written to Andrew Lansley, twice in 2010. He too did not want to become involved due to ‘ongoing’ employment issue, which should not have been happening in the first place.
I have now written six times to Jeremy Hunt for urgent help into the situation I am facing as a NHS whistleblower. I had won Interim relief hearing as I was able to prove that I was unfairly dismissed due to direct result of whistleblowing. As a result I lost my career, loss of income, suffering from cancer (which many clinicians believe is due to stress) and I am now facing homelessness.
Following letters to Hunt from Sir David Prior, Chairman of CQC, Stephen Dorrell, previous Chair of Health Select Committee and Angie Bray, my MP, I was invited to a meeting with Ed Jones, Special Advisor to Hunt.
After 2 months, I had not received any response. I drafted a a letter to jeremy Hunt and copied in MP’s and Journalists. I received a phone call the same day from Ed, advising me that they have been looking to help me and now having written the letter in which I had copied in various people, it will be difficult for them to help me. He also forwarded the letter from Dan Poulter as I had complained during the phone conversation that Hunt had not responded.
Following Dan Poulter’s letter, I wrote again to Hunt in 30 May 2014 and had copied in numerous MP’s and 70 journalists as the contrast between public statements and practical support was so sharp. The letter was also put on my website.
In the same afternoon as part of a group of six Whistleblowers Hunt’s office agreed to meet us for a way forward on NHS whistleblowing. The next day I received a phone call from Dr Kathy Mclean, Chief Executive of Trust Development Authority, TDA, to say that she would like to meet with me to discuss my work situation.
I subsequently met with Dr Mclean where it was explained that non foundation trusts, which there were 2 in the area, The Imperial and The West Middlesex, came under their wing. She listened sympathetically, and told me she would look to find me job in these hospitals.
Following a letter to Hunt from Fiona Bell, I was advised by Dr Mclean the next day, that she had spoken to Prof Christopher Harrison, Medical Director at The Imperial, and that he had several posts in his department that were suitable. Although my background is radiology and this is a medical division, I supposed that this is possible as some management skills are transferable.
I went to meet with Prof Harrison on Tuesday 8 July, and I was advised that there were work going on within The Imperial for application into becoming a Foundation Trust. This was scheduled in September this year. So, there was work which was needed and that they were recruiting. There were no job description. What they were offering was a temporary/fixed term post.
This concerned me as once Imperial had achieved their Foundation status, they would no longer be under the control of TDA, and so there wouldn’t be any job security. In addition, my post would no longer be needed. And I might well be redundant again. I asked, if I accepted a fixed term contract (although I could be sacked anytime) what would happen afterwards. I was advised that I would have to apply for any available posts.
Given my 5 years of struggle, I did not want to go through this again, and wanted a permanent solution to my situation. Also, a General Election is due and by the time I’m struggling again, it would probably be over and I had no idea whoever was the Secretary of State then would have the slightest interest in my circumstances.
3 days after I had met with Prof Harrison, I attended court to in Liverpool on Friday 11 July, where the case of Christie Vs Tracy Boylin was underway. CQC and Monitor are investigating Christie. To my surprise, Prof Harrison was there as a witness for the Trust. Prof Harrison was The Medical Director at Christies before recently taking up employment with The Imperial.
I wrote again to Hunt, copying in Ed Jones, Roger Kline and Kathy Mclean raising my concerns about the job offer. To which I have not received any response.
After an inquiry by Fiona Bell, regarding progress on my case, Ed Jones wrote back, ‘I also understand Sharmila has been offered a very good job in the NHS, which is great news.’
It would have been great news for me too, had it been true. Even with a temporary/fixed term contract I could be sacked, which is likely, in view that the Trust was applying for a foundation status due in September, after which I would be surplus to the requirement.
In addition, it was a job that didn’t exist . Just a vague notion that they may find something in dealing with Foundation status. The inspection was due the following month. Yet politicians have been congratulating themselves for job done.
Did Ed or Hunt not read the letter I had sent them? Did they choose to ignore? Were they being ‘sloppy’, or did not care? Or are they just plain callous, just interested in the election and ensuring the right ‘spin’ to prevent any further questions into my case?
I am not politically minded and don’t favour one party above another. Hunt is the first Health Secretary to grant a review into whistleblowing, after pressure to undertake public inquiry of 6 whistleblowing cases – mine was one of them. Review is an overview rather than in-depth investigation and solution that an inquiry would have offered. It will be skimming the surface, but should nevertheless be helpful. The Opposition, on the other hand have yet to express their way forward into NHS whistleblowing, which is a serious problem. Patient’s safety is compromised, if staff are too frightened to speak up. We have yet to hear from Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg.
There are some good MP’s, for example, Charlotte Leslie and Rosie Cooper who voice their concerns and act on what they believe is wrong and as such gain huge public support and respect as a result. Maybe others would do well to learn from them.
Despite having lost virtually everything and suffering for nearly 5 years, I have yet to be offered any sustainable practical help. I have not asked for a huge compensation. This is despite the fact that Department of Health should be held fully responsible for my situation as a whistleblower, by ignoring my repeated plea for help and being made fully aware of the situation.
They also failed to investigate my raised concerns of fraud, for which there has been extensive evidence.
Department of Health ignored me, but went on to assist Ealing Hospital with advice and funding legal costs. I on the other hand, was left struggling after reporting serious concerns. I have asked for:
- Urgent financial remedy – so that I do not lose my home with cancer, in form of monthly income (of what I was earning) and pension (backdated) until I retire
- Apology from Hunt for my treatment as a whistleblower on behalf of Department of Health
- Inquiry into my case
As a Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt should certainly have been able to fulfil my request. Wanting financial remedy is not unreasonable request, and should be well within the remit of a Health Secretary.
I find myself the subject of spin. Isn’t it time to behave responsibly and stop the ‘spin’? Think what a good message could be sent to all whistleblowers if I was treated with just a little respect and serious support?
id had hope they would put one back to your job but it seems politicians are still playing about scoring points against each other while those affected are still out in the cold but keep kicking keep shouting until justice is done and you has a doctor gets to work has one again jeff3
The public want NHS staff to be free to raise concerns to protect patients. So NHS leaders are forced by public opinion to say that they will protect whistleblowers, when they have no intention of doing so. In reality, the actions of NHS leaders are to cooperate with detrimental treatment of whistleblowers, because they see whistleblowers as a danger to themselves. In contrast we see that Prof Peter Richards, himself a member of the General Medical Council, helped to conceal the fact that Dr Clive Handler, a consultant in his hospital, had embezzled charitable research funds. Despite concealing Handler’s misconduct, Richards continued to sit on the GMC. Does this suggest that the GMC wants doctors to speak out? We see that Imperial College continues to employ cardiologist Prof Peter Collins who admitted to the GMC that he had falsified his qualifications. Subsequently Collins received a Bronze Clinical Excellence Award, which added £35,000 to his annual NHS salary. Does this suggest that NHS leaders want honesty? Last month, surgeon Anjan Kumar Banerjee was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours “for services to patient safety”. The GMC had removed Banerjee from the Medical Register twice. He was suspended for a year in 2000 for falsifying medical research. In 2002 he was erased from the Register because of concerns about his clinical skills and because of financial misconduct, which involved him defrauding patients. He had lied to patients, some with cancer, about the waiting times for NHS treatment to get them to transfer to his private practice. Banerjee got back onto the Medical Register in 2008. What has he done to deserve an MBE? When such people are protected and favoured by officials in Government and the Department of Health, can we really expect whistleblowers to be protected?
Clearly Department of Health have no intention of keeping their promise of supporting whistleblowers. They are more interested in the election and ‘spin’. Instead they support trusts with cover-ups and providing advice with unlimited access to legal funding. Treasury too have a huge role in this. They provide the payments for compromise agreements and funding for whistleblowing cases – all paid by the public, which should have been spent on patients.
It’s disgraceful that known wrongdoers are given ‘pat on the back’ instead of being held to account. Unfortunately examples of bad behaviour and poor leadership comes from the top. Unless we have a leader who is committed to honesty and accountability within NHS, nothing will change.
I am really sorry to hear of your continuing difficulties, Sharmila. I have never been an NHS employee and not suffered like you but I have been trying to expose serious financial irregularities in Morecambe Bay for over six years. No-one will help and I am dismayed that Cure the NHS will not even respond.
Is this at Morecambe Bay Hospital? If so, James Titcombe, at CQC would be able to help as he had lots of dealings with Morecambe Bay. Not sure who you could go to if it isn’t a hospital.
You might well think that, Sharmila, but I would not like to make any comment on JT except to say that he knows all about it. The irregularities involved payments by Morecambe Bay hospitals (and other NHS trusts) to the private company of the chair of its lead commissioners over a period of eight years.
I discovered it in 2008 and sounded the alarm bell loud and clear but no-one wanted to know. The largest payments were from a local mental health trust (c. £650,000) which simply continued with the payments until the chair was eventually removed in May 2011.
During the course of my further enquiries I became aware of a great many other issues but essentially it boiled down to a culture in the North West and elsewhere in which wrongdoing or irregularities of whatever nature seemed to be ignored, hidden or whitewashed.
My attempts at highlighting the issues have brought hostility and/or ill-concealed attempts at denigration from individuals connected with the CQC, NWSHA and National Audit Office.
Do you have documented evidences that can back up your concerns? Also did anyone explain why these payments were being made? Are you still working for them – i.e. are you at risk by speaking up? What did JT have to say about it all?
let me know and I will see what is the best way to proceed.
Its a long story. It started with the discovery of ‘mistakes’ in a £150m PFI proposal.compiled by Bingley Consulting Ltd, a private company run from the home of the PCT chair, William Bingley.
I have a considerable volume of documents. Would you like to see the bundle I sent to the Morecambe Bay investigation? Its a sample really but enough to show what was going on in the management and governance in Morecambe Bay. I would need your email address.
I have never worked for the NHS but you can never be sure what tactics might be employed against anyone who blows the whistle, employee or not.
Sorry but no comment on JT.
Did you get any response from CQC, NWSHA or the National Audit Office?
This is the new helpline for raising concerns:
I am not sure if you want to go public. By your comments you probably don’t. Other ways to highlight is media.
No reason to contact CQC. Hostile comments were made by CQC appointees on Twitter. It started when I discovered that the new improved CQC had hidden the number of its execs with £200K+ pay offs in its 2013 audited accounts. There was a loophole (i found it later) that allowed them to do this and they went for it.
My MP contacted NWSHA in 2008 but was fobbed off. I sent an FOI request to NWSHA Chair in 2011. She didn’t reply.
Letters to Public Accounts Committee, National Audit Office and many others simply resulted in more and more diversionary tactics and fobbing off responses.
I am afraid that I would not, on past experience, trust any helpline. Is NHS Counter Fraud Service helpline confidential ? I don’t think so!
Media? Not interested unless its really topical and not too involved.
By the way, Cynthia Bower and Mike Farrer, ex-CEO’s of CQC and NWSHA respectively, are appearing as witnesses today at the Morecambe Bay Investigation. Public and Press sadly not allowed in.
Christine E is absolutely right that those who cover up, assist, whitewash or protect wrongdoers need to be named and shamed. Bill Kirkup should do it, but will he? Will the old excuse ‘not within the terms of reference’ be trotted out?
Is the Morecambe Bay investigation just another ‘investigation’ limited by design? There are several who are hoping that it will be.
I have briefly tried to name & shame on my website relating to my case. I am also happy to do this for other whistleblowers, if they want to write their story and expose names. Jennie Fecitt has written her story which is on the website. Unfortunately Dept of Health is ultimately responsible for most cases within the NHS. They turn a blind eye and then watch the whistleblowers etc suffer at cost to the public and patients. Trusts seem to get their full support, despite any wrongdoings. NHS Counter Fraud are also employed by DH. I had contacted them. They did nothing despite writing to them several times. Only when BBC got involved, they then wrote to Ealing fraud, who are employed by Ealing Hospital.
Click to access fraud-11.pdf
I have read your posts, Sharmila, and it is all too familiar. But i think you might be surprised if I named and shamed those who won’t lift a finger to help expose the wrongdoers, won’t answer my emails and who are hostile to my attempts to get Kirkup to thoroughly investigate what was going on behind the scenes in Morecambe Bay whilst mothers & babies were dying at Furness General.
Nothing surprises me any more. The higher up the hierarchy, the worse they are as there are as few to challenge what they do. Unfortunately they don’t seem to equate inappropriate use of public funds with patient care. Somehow they don’t seem to see the connection or conveniently they don’t.
You are right about the heirarchy but I wasn’t entirely referring to them when referring to ‘those who won’t lift a finger’. But I’d rather not spell it out, Sharmila. You’ll just have to follow the clues and read the Bingley Dismissal File – carefully.
Kirkup said that investigating Jimmy Savile was like completing a jigsaw. Morecambe Bay is similar in that respect but there are some who would not like him to complete the whole picture.
Dr Phil Hammond is right about your ‘brilliant website’ and I have noted that we have both independently been following the same pathways, contacting the same key individuals with the same obfuscatory and evasive results. A key difference is that I have done it, not as an NHS employee or ex-employee, but as a member of the public. That means that I have not suffered as you have but it does not mean that I can be incautious.
I wrote to every relevant authority and innumerable MPs. Scarcely any MPs replied but Frank Field did, drawing my attention to his inability to get anyone to look into moonlighting in his constituency. He wrote an article about it in the Liverpool Echo and sent me a copy. Let me know if you would like to see it.
The change of government in 2010 brought about the possibility that irregularities and malpractice might be viewed in a different light but any such hopes were quickly dashed.
The newly elected MP for Lancaster agreed to see my wife and myself and spent an hour and half with us remarking that Bingley was ‘insider dealing’ and that it was ‘blatant’.
Two months later came the announcement that Bingley had been re-appointed to serve as chair of the Morecambe Bay commissioners for a further four years.
It was not to be, of course, because he was quietly removed in May 2011 accompanied by denials of anything being wrong.
You are right that an independent press is crucial and it seems highly likely that Bingley’s removal was brought about after local newspapers finally summoned up enough courage to publish details of amounts Bingley had been getting from the local health economy. They had, by then, known about it for almost two years and the irregularities had continued for nearly eight.
Yes, I would like to see the article by Frank Field. As you know moonlighting was one of my concerns too.
Yes, we too had high hopes when government changed. Unfortunately, this government is also shy of any formal investigation or inquiry. We as whistleblower 6 are pushing for a public inquiry. We have managed to get a review into whistleblowing – but it won’t be the same & won’t have the depth. It’s probably a political move before election.
I would be interested in the article on Bingley, if you have it.
Will do but where do I send them? If you email me (I assume you can access my email address) I will attach copies of both documents.
My email address is: email@example.com Thanks
Thanks Sharmila. You should now have the documents.
Thanks Gary. i have. I’ll be reading them today.
How are you getting on with the jigsaw, Sharmila? Are any of the pieces falling into place?
Is WB the chap who used to run Mind?
You are going back a bit, Ian. WB was Legal Director at MIND in the1980s. He told the Law Society Gazette (1987) that he was a qualified barrister but the Bar Council and the Law Society informed me, when I enquired, that they had no record of him. It seems that his mother, Lady Juliet Bingley, may have been national chair of MIND at the time. The dates she was national chair used to be on the MIND website, but not anymore.
Anything you can add?