‘Bullied’ NHS whistleblower who raised concerns about missed cancer diagnoses settles lengthy dispute

The Times 3 April 2020

A RADIOGRAPHER and former employee of Furness General Hospital (FGH) has settled a long-running legal dispute with University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT).

Sue Allison and UHMBT announced that the two parties have come to a resolution, which involves financial compensation.

Mrs Allison, 58, brought a detriment claim against UHMBT after she says she was subject to prolonged bullying and professional blacklisting following concerns she and a colleague raised about missed cancer diagnoses at the UHMBT breast screening unit.

Like whistleblower surgeon Peter Duffy, she moved to FGH after alleging workplace retaliation at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary after blowing the whistle.

She has also revealed she was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as part of the dispute with UHMBT – despite former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s promise to outlaw such ‘gagging clauses’ in the NHS several years earlier.

Last year, a judge at Manchester Employment Tribunal ruled that this NDA was void and that Mrs Allison’s detriment case should be heard in court.

Mrs Allison’s detriment case was scheduled to take place in 2021 and was expected to last around fifteen days – but it will now not go ahead.

She told The Mail: “We probably would have had to sell our house in order to finance the case, had it gone all the way to Employment Tribunal.

“We’ve got some closure now, at least, and that will help us get our lives back as a family now. They had been in suspension for years, as this dispute took over everything.”

Aaron Cummins, CEO of UHMBT, said: “The trust has always accepted that Sue made a number of protected disclosures during the course of her employment and thanked her for bringing her concerns to the trust’s attention.

“It is disclosures of this type which lead to us being able to identify and explore potential issues and where an investigation proves that there may be an issue, to improve patient safety.

“The safety and care of our patients is our absolute priority. We strongly encourage staff to come forward if they think patients may be in any way at risk, so we can investigate and learn from any mistakes.”

Mrs Allison said: “My main concern when I took out my claim in 2018 was to draw this situation to the attention of the public, patients and employees.

“I felt the toxic managerial culture which I experienced was not only a huge risk to the safety of patients and staff but that public money was being squandered to cover up bad practice and to persecute and gag whistleblowers.

“I do not wish further public funds to be spent, by the trust, defending my claim in a full tribunal. I believe this is not ethical use of public money; this is money which should be spent on patient care.”

Mrs Allison said she plans to set up a consultancy platform for whistleblowers across all sectors in light of her experiences.

“I wish to continue challenging toxic management practices especially in the NHS where they pose a real risk to patient and staff health and safety; I don’t want anyone else to suffer the way I have,” she said.

“I can only continue my work in this area if I do not have to raise the large sums of money required to take my claim to the full tribunal. Asking family and complete strangers to support a further, more costly tribunal claim is something that I am not comfortable with.

“I also feel that whether I won or lost the tribunal the result would not have any great impact on whistleblower protection as very few whistleblowers actually get as far as tribunal with a detriment claim.

“The trust has offered me an opportunity to work with them to improve the culture around speaking up in the trust; this is something we will be discussing further over the coming months

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