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?