A junior doctor who raised concerns about staff shortages says his career has been “wrecked” by an alleged lack of protection for whistleblowers.
Dr Chris Day is awaiting an employment appeal tribunal ruling that could have a massive impact on whether the NHS’s 54,000 junior doctors dare risk their jobs by raising safety concerns.
In January 2014 he was working overnight in the intensive care unit at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich when two locum doctors failed to show. He had to cover other wards and A&E and reported his concerns to managers.
Since the married father of two’s one-year placement ended in August 2014 he has only found work as a locum doctor, picking up occasional A&E shifts. “I have had my career wrecked,” he said.
Dr Day, 31, brought a claim for unfair dismissal and whistleblowing detriment against Health Education England and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, helped by £22,000 raised via the Crowd justice website. A second hearing took place this month and judgment is expected in the next few weeks on whether to allow the case to proceed.
At the first hearing last August, Mr Recorder Jan Luba QC said there was a need to clarify for all junior doctors whether HEE, which took responsibility for trainee doctors from the London Deanery, was technically an “employer” and owed them employment rights.
Doctors in training typically move from hospital to hospital each year and are given one-year contracts at a time.
Mr Recorder Luba said in his judgment: “There is what would appear to be a lacuna [gap] in respect of the ability of a junior doctor to complain of detrimental treatment on account of a protected disclosure at the hands of the body responsible for his or her training and, ultimately, career progress.”
Dr Day, from Woolwich, today told the Standard HEE operated as an “employment agency” for junior doctors. He said: “What my litigation has uncovered is that these quite powerful functions are not governed by any kind of employment legislation. They’ve tried to prevent a whistleblowing court case happening by trying to say junior doctors don’t have whistleblowing protection.
“If we lose this appeal it will mean the organisation that employs junior doctors long-term can act with impunity.”
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust denied failing whistleblowers. It said: “We investigated Dr Day’s concerns in detail. We have robust procedures to support staff who raise concerns and we encourage our staff to speak out when concerns arise. We identified the need to increase medical staffing numbers for the intensive care unit at Queen Elizabeth hospital. The unit is now fully compliant with quality standards.”
Both the hearings were held at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in central London. HEE said: “It is not appropriate for us to comment while there is an active legal case.”