Jane McNeill QC has been instructed by Croydon University Hospital to help appeal Dr Kevin Beatt’s (centre) tribunal verdict. Chief executive John Goulston, right, has declined to be interviewed on the subject
- NHS whistleblowers have voiced their disgust over Croydon University Hospital’s decision to hire a top QC to fight a tribunal’s verdict that it sacked a doctor for raising safety concerns.
Dr David Drew, a whistleblower dismissed by Walsall Manor Hospital in 2010, said Croydon Health Services’s board was treating the hospital as its “personal fiefdom rather than a public service” and has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling on him to intervene.
His concern followed a report in last week’s Advertiser in which we revealed the trust had already spent more than £130,000 on legal fees relating to Dr Kevin Beatt’s claim of unfair dismissal.
A judge decided the consultant cardiologist had been sacked for whistleblowing following the death of a patient during a routine operation in 2011, but the hospital is trying to appeal, hiring Jane McNeill QC to work alongside a barrister already on the case.
Old Square Chambers told the Advertiser Ms McNeill’s services cost between £50,000 and £60,000 for case preparation up until the first day of the hearing and between £4,000 to £5,000 per day thereafter.
Dr Drew accused the hospital of using public money to try and discredit Dr Beatt.
“The narrative of senior NHS managers mounting expensive, protracted and vicious campaigns against front line staff who raise concerns about patient care is well-established,” he said.
“The problem is that no one in a position to do so chooses to hold them to account. It is time for the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to act on this. Kevin Beatt is the archetypal whistleblower doctor and he is being stamped on by Stalinist management.”
Dr Drew was sacked for “gross misconduct” after emailing a Christian prayer to his colleagues, with his bosses claiming he had created a “toxic work environment” with inappropriate communications.
He believed he had been unfairly dismissed and was the victim of religious discrimination but lost his employment tribunal and then saw an appeal rejected.
The father-of-four, who has published a book on whistleblowing and the NHS, believes the email was a smokescreen used to sack him because he had expressed concern that cost-cutting was putting patients at risk.
Dr Beatt was dismissed after claiming one of his patients, Gerald Storey, died because a nurse had been suspended without his knowledge and, as such, was unable to help with the procedure. A coroner later agreed that the suspension had been a factor in Mr Storey’s death.
A tribunal rejected Croydon Health Services assertion that he had an “ulterior motive” for whistleblowing.
Its decision to instruct a highly expensive QC has been questioned by council leader Tony Newman and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell.
The trust has declined to comment during the legal process.
Minh Alexander, a former consultant psychiatrist and whistleblower, said the case was “extremely concerning”.
“The trust’s determination to plough on with an appeal at public expense is scandalous.”
The Department of Health said it had received Dr Drew’s letter.
“It’s currently with policy officials who are looking into the case and will respond in due course,” a spokesman said.
The “inexcusable” treatment of whistleblowers by the NHS deters medical professionals from coming forward, A Commons select committee said today.
Patient watchdog ‘concerned’
A GROUP representing patients has expressed its “concern” over allegations of bullying within Croydon University Hospital.
Dr Beatt’s employment tribunal heard that Dr Asif Qasim intimidated, undermined and even physically restrained staff while working as a consultant in the cardiology department.
The cardiologist also put pressure on witnesses to change statements given during the internal investigation into Gerald Storey’s death, in order to focus on Dr Beatt’s conduct.
Croydon Health Services says it has investigated the allegations against Dr Qasim and he has no case to answer.
A spokesperson for Healthwatch Croydon, a patient watchdog, said: “We are concerned by the extremely serious allegations made at the hearing on bullying taking place amongst staff at Croydon University Hospital, and the issues highlighted about patient safety.
“However, we note that the management of Croydon University Hospital refute these claims and intend to appeal. Healthwatch Croydon will continue to monitor the views and experiences of the local residents of Croydon and elevate any concerns to the commissioners and providers of these services.”