Open letter from whistleblower Re: Paula Vasco-Knight

Open letter 26 April 2016 to the Council of Governors, St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Sirs,

Ms Paula Vasco-Knight and Fit and Proper Person issues

My name is Clare Sardari. I am an Organisational Development Professional by background and one of two NHS whistleblower’s from Torbay in South Devon. In 2012 we raised concerns of nepotism by Ms Paula Vasco-Knight, who was then Chief Executive of South Devon Healthcare NHS Trust. We suffered reprisal and were both dismissed. In January 2014 an Employment Tribunal concluded that the trust run by Ms Vasco-Knight had covered up the nepotism and victimised us for whistleblowing.

Sir Robert Francis, who led the MidStaffs Public Inquiry, responded to the outcome of the Employment Tribunal with this strong criticism of the trust:

“It is important that no tolerance is afforded to oppressive managerial behaviour of the sort identified only last week by an employment tribunal in the South West, which victimises staff who raise honestly held concerns.”

“Every such case is damaging to the confidence of other staff who are contemplating raising concerns. It is clear there is much to do in this area.”

Ms Vasco-Knight stepped down as Chief Executive following these events. However, in September 2015 I was deeply shocked to hear that senior figures in the NHS had welcomed Ms Vasco-Knight back into the fold and that she had been employed at St. Georges as an interim Chief Operating Officer. I was even more astonished this week to hear that she had been promoted to Acting Chief Executive.

NHS Trusts are legally obliged to ensure that their directors are of good character and meet the Fit and Proper Person test, and under Regulation 5 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) is supposed to ensure that NHS Trusts do this effectively. I struggle to see how the board of St. Georges and the CQC could come to a reasonable conclusion that Ms Vasco-Knight is a Fit and Proper Person to be in charge of people’s lives in the light of serious criticism of her conduct by the Tribunal and its comments about her as a witness. It seems to me that only a tokenistic, diluted attempt could have been made at the Fit and Proper Person test.

Indeed, information from the Trust shows that both St. George’s staff and governors expressed concerns about Ms Vasco-Knight’s appointment. It also shows that the governors were only given a list of documents relating to the whistleblowing case, and not the actual documents themselves.

The way Ms Vasco-Knight and South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation trust dealt with me was personally devastating, and I am now unemployable. Prior to that, I had served in the NHS and Local Government for over 25 years. I truly do not want anyone else to experience what I endured, and I am very concerned for staff and patients at St. George’s. St. George’s is under pressure and it is crucial that staff can raise concerns with confidence and resolve

them safely. However, I do not know how trust staff will have confidence to raise concerns in the light of Ms Vasco-Knight’s appointment and promotion to the top job.

The praise given to NHS whistleblowers for their courage is only lip service if the senior managers who harm them are quickly recycled back into the NHS, as if nothing ever happened.

I ask for the sake of staff and patients that the Council of Governors now examines all the relevant documents and robustly scrutinises the evidence that the St. George’s trust board claims shows that Ms Vasco-Knight is a Fit and Proper Person. I am happy to be contacted for more information.

Yours sincerely,

Clare Sardari

cc Sir Robert Francis QC

Health Committee

Jane Ellison MP Battersea, Balham and Wandsworth

Rt. Hon Sadiq Khan MP Tooting

Care and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee Wandsworth Council



26 thoughts on “Open letter from whistleblower Re: Paula Vasco-Knight

  1. hmm one would think they sweep it under the carpet the tories dont like anyone showing up their dodgy deals with those they want to take over the nhs

  2. I have know Paula Vasco knight all her working career and I know that she is a fabulous dynamic , kind caring nurse and manager. Her patients and staff’s interest are always her priority. Wish there were more managers like her.

  3. As someone who has worked with Paula Vasco knight, i can,t believe the half truths and outright lies in this open letter off Clare Sadari, i could go into all the details , but suffice to say Paula was nominated for an inspirtional leadership award on 2014 by members of her staff!! an award she won!!! her trust was praised for its open and honest work ethic!! This whole campaign against Paula started when a merger meant Anthony Farnsworths organisation was being taken over and he instigated a vicious and personal campaign against Paula Vasco Knight, Clare Sadari and the other whistle blower were lead by Anthony Farnsworth who is on record for making Racist comments and aggressive comments to Paula, i could go into this whole vendetta more , but suffice to say one day the whole truth will come out!, I find it very sad that a truly dynamic dedicated leader like Paula has had to endure such personal and agressive attacks and could end up being lost by the NHS. as for claims of bullying and oppressive management by Paula! please do not make me laugh as anyone who as ever worked with her to even suggest this is an absolute joke

    • Paula Vasco Knight won an inspirational leadership award; Jimmy Savile received a knighthood. Seems people aren’t always who they appear to be.

  4. Paula vasco knight is a truly inspiring leader who indeed was nominated by her staff in south devon for a leadership award , which she won. Clare Sadari has issued a story of half truths and Lies about the facts of what actually took place! does Anthony Farnsworths name ring a bell Clare Sadari? the full truth will come out one day about who instigated this campaign against Paula and the true motives behind the so called whistleblowers ,anyone who has worked with Paula would absolutely laugh at claims of bullying by Paula!

  5. This is extremely shocking to read about Paula. I have known Paula for a short while in a professional capacity. From hearing her speak highly of the organisation it is apparent has always had the interest of the organisation at heart and has always wanted to do her best by her colleagues. She has always been courteous and a good listener. These damning allegations appear to be rather political. I believe that staff that work for the nhs should stay out of the political issues and do the job they are there to do ultimately caring for patients. The above seems like playground behaviour. Live and let live!

  6. I have worked with Paula and can only describe an inspirational leader, with vision and passion about her staff and providing excellent patient care and well managed services . This continued vendetta reads personal and vindictive and worse behaviour than ironically that which you accuse. Time to move on now and be better people……

  7. I wonder whilst your all busy praising your “inspirational leader” Have you actually stopped to think , the bravery it takes in speaking up ? The impact it has on those individuals who speak up? The fact that in many cases whistle blowers loose careers, health, home life suffers, the list goes on and on . After a person as blown the whistle it is not a simple process of “moving on” BTW whistle blowers are most likely to be the better people – It’s them telling the truth that gets them into bother , they certainly don’t do it for reward!

    • For reference, I have raised concerns using the whistleblowing policy and this resulted in my position becoming untenable and my manager being promoted….so yes I do understand bravery and injustice but I have moved on with a good reference and to new opportunities. This has nothing to do with my opinion of Paula or that vendettas need to stop. I have the right to an opinion based on my own personal experience of her that may be different to yours- and She equally has the right to move on.

  8. To the idiot who has not put there name against thier comments i noticed, how dare they even put Paula Vasco Knights name in the same sentence as Jimmy Saville! Paula,s whole career has been dedicated to the care of the patients her main priority, as stated the award!was won ater being nominated by her staff , people who worked with her day in day out ! every hospital Paula worked in she was held in high regard, her problems began because certain individuals resented a working class girl working her way through the ranks , a nurse to start with rising to CEO! they did not like it at all! ring any bells Mr Anthony Farnsworth? this is the man who stated no scouse nigger is going to run my organisation, this is a fact that is on record, he also stated Paula Vasco Knight will never work in the Nhs again by the time he has finished with her!What a shame on the Nhs that it appears he is going to be allowed to achieve what he stated! and the NHS is in danger of losing a dedicated caring professional!


      • Paula Vasco Knight was not found guilty of Fraud yesterday at Exeter Crown Court…she ADMITTED to the charge and PLEADED GUILTY….as did her husband. Straight forward, honest and a beacon of light to her colleagues? I think not!!! Ms Vasco Knights apologists must have been duped by the conwoman too!

  9. Regarding the comments about whisleblowers and their bravery in speaking up, no one is questioning the whistle blowing process is there for a valid reason , but also it should also not be allowed to be used as a way of instigating personal vendettas,Mr Farnsworth ! if the person who is accussed of wroing doing is cleared by independent investigations they should also be allowed to move on with there lives, also there is a massive effect on the accused and thier lives as well, no one doubts it takes courage to speak up , but there has to be the right motives and reasons for speaking up, and great care taken it is not used as a tool to take out personel grievances and issues against someone!(Anthony Farnsworth!)

  10. For clarity folks – Tribunal judge Nick Roper ruled:”We find that there was a concerted effort by the South Devon Healthcare Trust to manipulate the investigation, accuse the claimants of malice, suppress the report and to mislead the other parties as to its contents, with the apparent aim of protecting DR Vasco-Knight and Mrs Murphy against the force of the claimant’s allegations.

    “This was completely contrary to the protection which they should have been offered under the Whistle Blowing guidelines.”

    It is what it is – no further comments required.

  11. The employment Tribunal took place 15 months after the original whistle blowing case began, and it was apparent to everyone attending the tribunal that the judge had clearly made his mind up, as in every court case there are two sides to a story and if both sides are allowed to put thier story fairly a balanced judgement can be made, i beleve this was not the case here. but everyone is intitled to thier opinions, and you are clearly having difficulty with the fact that not everyone agrees with yours were Paula Vasco Knight is concerned!, the fact she is held in such high regard with the actual people she has worked with over the years clearly gets to you! The fact she is regarded by many people as an inspiring leader, like you stated previously ,That is what is.!

  12. Just to throw a spanner into the works, I am a victim of being a whistle blower albeit in a different department of the public sector. Having plenty of spare time on my hands given the stigma attached with what I believe was right I have followed this case with interest. Following a freedom of information request I obtained the original independent report carried out into the nepotism case and it may not be as clear cut as this judge stated! In fact Ms Sardari is criticised throughout and with Ms Vasco-Knight found there was no case you answer. Further digging has found some astonishing revelations. I fear that ‘whistle blowing’ is the smoke screen that is being hidden behind and as a victim of such I find this appalling! Even in this letter I wonder how Ms Sardari ‘heard’ that Vasco-Knight was back in the NHS? Particularly given this was I’m the opposite end of the country. Conspiracy theorists may suggest Ms Sardari has some friends in high places. As Mulder and Skully once said ‘the truth is out there’…

    • As you will be aware, each request will differ depending on the information requested. I could not comment on another individuals request.

  13. Thanks Simon 1.08 pm.

    The What Do They Know request was for the same report I believe.

    Do you think you could upload the copy of the nepotism report that you say the trust disclosed to you and post the link here so that people can make their own minds up for themselves? Thanks

  14. Pingback: NHS whistleblowing articles in 2016: TWO years post Francis Review with NO change | sharmilachowdhury


  16. With regard to the damning report made by the employment tribunal in February 2014, which found that the Chief Executive, Paula Vasco-Knight, had breached the NHS code of conduct and who was suspended on full pay. I find it staggering that the ex-Chairman, Peter Hildrew, Ms Vasco-Knight and Head of HR, Adriene Murphy who allegedly orchestrated such a cover up to protect themselves and discredit two brave ladies, Ms Sadari and Mrs Gates who had the moral decency and courage to ‘blow the whistle’ on the alleged nepotism

    The behavior and culture that permeated in Torbay Hospital shows how shambolic South Devon Trust allegedly chose to ignore
    these two brave managers who were faced with bullying, harassment, peer pressure from the very top of senior management. South Devon Trust failed to act with dignity to protect these two employees which was disgraceful and beggars belief that these two courageous lady’s were isolated because they simply challenged and exposed the truth of “corruption and bullying” We must never lose sight that they resigned simply to bring this case with the interest of the Trust at heart

    Lets not fail to forget that Mrs gates and Ms Sadari were the innocent party who `s only crime was to tell the truth.

    The inescapable conclusion is that this has been an allege scandal consisting of secrecy and corruption instigated from the very top level of management who should inspire trust and be role models to their fellow colleagues .

    Now is the has opportunity to ensure that there is an open dialogue between front line staff and senior management, that whistle blowers will be respected and listened to without fear of retribution.

    Jeremy Hunt is now addressing a new policy to protect whistle blowers – and suggest anyone who is bullied to contact their Union Rep and importantly their MP .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.