BBC News 27 October 2015
An NHS whistleblower who was accused of bullying after he spoke out about patient safety has been cleared of all allegations by the General Medical Council (GMC).
Surgeon Malcolm Loudon wrote to health secretary Alex Neil before leaving his job at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
His claims sparked a review which was critical of NHS Grampian but also brought bullying allegations against him.
The GMC has dismissed the claims.
It also questioned the standard of evidence put forward in the internal investigation.
NHS Grampian has accepted all the recommendations of the reports into Mr Loudon’s claims and apologised to patients.
It said it “strongly refuted any suggestion that NHS Grampian is uncaring or puts patients at risk”.
Mr Loudon, who left his post last December, said the health board’s actions were vindictive attempts to destroy him.
He said: “I think it’s been an attempt to silence me and it’s been done in a way that’s really quite ruthless – not so much silence but destroy.
“It’s a recklessly irresponsible way to behave merely to wreak revenge on those who have called the organisation’s conduct, and indeed values and standards, into question.
“And as every senior clinician leaves, patient care is further damaged.”
The GMC said it had examined the information it received about Mr Loudon, and “decided to conclude this case with no further action”.
Its official report said: “We conclude that none of the matters alleged meet the realistic prospect test, and the case should be closed.
“The evidence falls far below the standard required to prove these allegations. We find it difficult to understand how the investigator reached the conclusion.”
Mr Loudon, who now works with a different health board, described the conduct of NHS Grampian as “absolutely uncaring”.
He said: “We talk about person-centred care and I think this is being ignored completely.
“The government must get to the heart of what went wrong, why people behaved in this disgraceful fashion and indeed are continuing to behave in a destructive fashion.
“So the Scottish government must commission a judge-led inquiry into the actions and conduct of all the people involved in this process.”
The surgeon previously described the working environment at NHS Grampian as having “all the features of a toxic organisation”.
He said: “We are like an elastic that is stretched almost to breaking point but we have managed to maintain that level of safety despite everything.
“A toxic culture is defined by where people are unhappy, they don’t want to come to their work, turnover is high, there are high rates of sickness and there is no feeling of shared values between management and between those who are actually delivering the services.”
BBC Scotland has spoken to nine other doctors who say they raised concerns about the care being provided to patients by NHS Grampian.
Some, like Malcolm Loudon, said they felt forced to leave when accusations were made against them.
Others are currently under suspension by the health board.
Many expressed concern that other medical staff would see how they have been treated and be put off raising concerns that could ultimately save lives.
Donnie Ross, retired former medical director at NHS Grampian, said: “There is evidence of a very widespread problem in the culture.
“Doctors are crushed and got rid of because they criticise the system or they criticise some aspect of patient care. Actually doctors are supposed to do that.”
NHS Grampian said: “It is not appropriate for us to comment on confidential correspondence between an external organisation and an individual.
“NHS Grampian has not and does not take punitive action against any staff who raise concerns. We have not suspended or dismissed staff in response to the raising of concerns or ‘whistle blowing’.
“We strongly refute any suggestion that NHS Grampian is uncaring or puts patients at risk.
“The safety of patients and staff is a top priority for the Board. We believe the quality of care and the experience of patients in Grampian is among the best in Scotland.”