Whistleblowing by Carraroe native leads to UK NHS probe

Sligo Champion July 25 2020

Sligo native David Phelan was a senior manager with the NHS until he uncovered alleged fraud and became a whistleblower. Now the police are investigating his claims. He speaks to Jessica Farry

David Phelan. Pic: Carl BrennanDavid Phelan. Pic: Carl Brennan

A Sligo man whose whistle-blowing has led to the UK police opening an investigation into a hospital says he now feels vindicated, after he used tech skills he learned at IT Sligo to expose alleged fraud relating to waiting lists.

David Phelan, a Carraroe native, was a senior manager with the NHS in England for 15 years, working in Kettering General Hospital.

In 2015, he felt compelled to whistleblow after he noticed patients were removed from waiting lists of Kettering General Hospital which he alleges was done to improve the hospital’s waiting list figures.

The Northamptonshire police are now investigating the alleged fraud.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the investigation into the hospital in a letter to Labour’s health spokesman, Jonathan Ashworth.

The Health Secretary said: “I note t hat Northamptonshire Police have begun an investigation into allegations of False and Misleading Information Offences at Kettering General Hospital. As Secretary of State for Health and Social Care I have made it clear that there is no place in the NHS or Government for anything other than the highest levels of honesty and integrity and I will tolerate nothing other than that.”

Simon Weldon, now Chief Executive Officer at Kettering General Hospital, was not in that role at the time of the alleged fraud, but he has made contact with Mr. Phelan ‘out of the blue’ to inform him that they would assist the police with the inquiries.

He said: “As you know, I have confirmed on behalf of the Trust that we are happy to assist the police with their enquiries and in order to avoid any possible prejudice to their investigation, I will not at this stage provide detailed responses or commentary to third parties including yourself, despite your close interest in this matter.”

It’s five years since David whistleblew, which resulted in him losing his job early in 2016.

“Regardless of whether they find them innocent or guilty, the fact that the police are now going to investigate, I feel vindicated in that my allegations are being taken that seriously,” he told The Sligo Champion.

Although not working in tech in the hospital, the former Summerhill College student was able to use the skills he learned at IT Sligo to prove his suspicions that something untoward was going on with the hospital waiting lists.

At IT Sligo, David studied Information Systems, which included a module on database technologies.

“It was through having those skills that I was able to crack this crime,” he said.

“That’s how I proved it. I wasn’t employed in tech. I was doing a senior management job which didn’t involve working as a technologist.

“When the figures started looking strange to me, I just thought it didn’t look right so I managed to get access to the computer code used to print the waiting list, and it was from that then that I as able to see that filters were put on the database to remove six categories of patients from the waiting list.”

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