FPPT

Fit and Proper Person Requirements: NHS Directors.

           

I am making the following report to the Care Quality Commission under regulation 5 of The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014.                     

 

 

Information to support initial consideration of individual cases

 

Brief outline of the circumstances of the my experience and the name of the Trust concerned

 

I worked for the NHS for 30 years with an unblemished record until my dismissal in 2010. I was employed as an Imaging Services Manager in the Radiology department at Ealing Hospital NHS Trust. I was responsible for 60 members of staff in the department not including consultant radiologists. I was the budget holder for the department and had sole responsibility for signing off additional work and attendances of all staff, including the consultant radiologists.

On 30 March 2009 Accident and Emergency had a very sick patient and was in urgent need of a consultant radiologist. No-one was available. I subsequently discovered that Peter Schnatterbeck, and Miranda Harvie two of our consultant radiologist rostered for duty in the department,  were undertaking sessions at Clementine Churchill, a private hospital. They were claiming payment for sessions from the NHS Trust, which they were not working. Dates later provided by Clementine Churchill of their attendance there were the same dates that the two consultants were absent from Ealing Trust and for which they were claiming payment.

I reported this to Dr Curati, Clinical Director, who was directly responsible for the consultant radiologists and also Jat Harchowal, my line manager. Visits to Clementine Churchill continued and so I escalated my concerns up the management chain to include Dr Bill Lynn, Medical Director, Paul Stanton, HR Director, David Pratt, Finance Director, Philippa Graves, Director of Operations and Julie Lowe, Chief Executive. This was in line with the Trust whistle-blower policy. These executive officers and managers were all fully aware of the situation as I reported it but no action was taken.

 

There were other serious concerns which I had also reported. These were acknowledged by senior managers.

  • Double claiming for same period of hours worked
  • Work not completed during the day was being claimed as overtime and completed out of hours
  • Miranda Harvie being paid for 13.5 sessions but was in department only half this time
  • False claims of pay were made for waiting list sessions paid at £100 per hour. Claims were made for 4 hour sessions when only 2.5 hours were worked.
  • There was misuse of weekly CME (study) days, and overtime claims during contracted hours.

I have full documentation and records of all the concerns I raised. These are available for inspection.

Paul Stanton, David Pratt, Bill Lynn and Julie Lowe all failed to investigate my concerns despite detailed disclosures. Walter Curati, Clinical Director of the department and Jat Harchowal, my line manager both recognised there was a problem but failed to tackle it. In one email, one consultant admitted he was at the private hospital whilst being paid by the Trust. The 2 consultants had been attending private practice since 2006 on a regular basis. This was confirmed by the private hospital.

A subsequent FOI demonstrated that there was liaison/collusion between internal fraud and Paul Stanton, HR Director. I believe this made it less likely that my concerns would be rigorously investigated.

In September 2009, I discovered a serious incident in the department. The PACS/RIS manager, Mike McWha, had failed to upload nuclear medicine reports and images for approximately 100 patients over a 6 months period. A significant number of these patients would have had life threatening conditions such as tumours. I raised this issue with him at the time and sent a letter to him on 2 October 2009. He indicated that an investigation would commence. The matter was reported to clinical risk management.

On 17 November 2009, un-evidenced false verbal counter allegations were made against me by Mike McWha after liaising with Miranda Harvie. The fact that Mike McWha and Miranda Harvie had discussions on this was documented by the Trust, in interview notes with Mike McWha. It was fairly clear that these two had a mutual interest in discrediting me.

I was immediately suspended and escorted out of the building in front of my staff. Staff were advised not to contact me or they would meet the same fate. Within two weeks of being suspended items were taken from my office and my name removed from my office door. Ealing Trust had clearly predetermined my dismissal. My salary was reduced by the Trust which led to significant financial hardship and stress.

My post was advertised and Jane Taylor was recruited to the post whilst I was still suspended.

The Trust ignored supportive statements from 12 (brave) staff in the department. The Trust failed to seek the views my line manager, Jat Harchowal, who was well disposed to me. He left the Trust in September 2009 but was easily contactable.  The same held for other staff in the department.  No evidence of any wrongdoing by me was ever produced but I was dismissed by the Trust.

My case was taken to Interim Relief Hearing. I was advised that I had a strong whistleblowing case with detailed evidence of my protected disclosures. I paid my own legal costs.  Barristers from Matrix were appalled after looking through the whistleblowing documentation. They told me that this was the worst case of unfair dismissal they had come across.

The Interim Relief Hearing ruled in my favour in July 2010. The link to the judgement is below. The judgement concluded, “On the basis of the evidence put before me, the cross examination of Mr Coleman and the submission of both parties  I am satisfied that the claimant does have a pretty good chance of success [at a full tribunal] in a claim for automatic unfair dismissal on the grounds of her making a protected disclosure.

Only a handful of whistle-blowers have ever succeeded at the Interim relief Hearing. The Trust refused to let me return to my post when asked by Judge Mahoney. Judge Mahoney instructed that I be reinstated on full income until the case was settled. I was not allowed back to work by the Trust. My full pay was reinstated. I was paying legal fees of £1,000 per month so I was still financially disadvantaged.

The Trust then made me attend an internal appeal hearing.  At our request the Trust employed an independent investigator for the appeal which I won. The Trust then refused to let me return to my post on the spurious grounds that due to introduction of new technology in the department, my post was now redundant. The replacement post-holder was much less qualified and experienced and did not even come from a radiology background. Although the Interim Relief Hearing had supported my case as a whistleblower the Trust was determined not to allow me back to work.

After this, with escalating legal costs, (already at £130,000), and facing financial ruin, I had no choice but to settle out of court. In March 2012 I received the equivalent of two years pay as a settlement. After paying £77,500 for legal expenses, I was left with little to live on. I have been unable to secure a proper job since. One position at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital was withdrawn after I received an offer, when HR discovered I was a whistleblower.  I have also had interviews cancelled on the day of interview and posts withdrawn after an interview. I have been effectively blacklisted.

The directors named are all fully acquainted with my case. They understand that I was recognised as a whistleblower at the Interim Relief Hearing and must have known that I would be unable to continue to a full tribunal for financial reasons. They have behaved dishonestly and supported the dishonest behaviour of consultant staff making fraudulent claims for work they had not done. They know it is illegal to dismiss an employee for making protected disclosures. I made these disclosures in the interest of the organisation and its patients. These directors have acted against the interests of the hospital and the patients it serves. They are not fit and proper persons to be working as directors in the NHS.

 

Postscript.

Two years ago, ITV’s Exposure team undertook surveillance of Radiologists at Ealing. They discovered that not only were the consultant radiologists still moonlighting during paid hours but that things had got worse. They caught on camera, Miranda Harvie and Akib Rafique, the new Clinical Director, taking direct cash payments from patients for private ultrasounds within Ealing Hospital, which went into their own private account. Ealing Trust confirmed to ITV that radiology does not have provision for undertaking private work. A FOI was sent to find out if Julie Lowe, Chief Executive, knew about this. Julie Lowe moved to a new post at North Middlesex Hospital shortly after this.

To date there has been no independent investigation into the Trust’s actions or my reported concerns. There has been no protection or support given to me as a whistleblower. The consultants continue to work for the Trust and senior managers have not been held to account. I have been humiliated, lost my career and have been left penniless for behaving responsibly and reporting this fraud.

I have been unable to find a post in which I can do the work I am trained for and experienced at. I am currently doing work that is much less satisfying on about half my previous salary. I am now being treated for breast and lung cancer. My consultants have expressed an opinion that this is a direct result of stress following whistleblowing.  I am financially ruined and now face losing my home.

The NHS is now supposed to be encouraging and supporting staff to raise concerns about patient care and wrongdoing. The new culture is supposed to be one of openness and honesty. My own experience at Ealing is of an organisation that falls far short of that. The directors I have named have behaved dishonestly and supported dishonest behaviour in others. They have failed to behave in an open, transparent way. They are directly responsible for removing a whistleblower who acted sincerely on good evidence to expose fraud. Sir Robert Francis told the House of Commons Health Committee in February 2014 that directors who supressed whistle-blowers should be dismissed. The individuals I have named are not fit and proper persons to be NHS directors.

 

 

 

 

Who is the named Director(s) that this applies to?

 

 

Paul Stanton – HR Director

John Coleman – Director of Operations

Bill Lynn – Medical Director

Julie Lowe – Chief Executive

David Pratt – Finance Director

 

  1. Are they still Board members now as far as you know and if so in which organisation?

 

 

Paul Stanton – still at Ealing as HR Director

Bill Lynn – still at Ealing but no longer a Medical Director

John Coleman – Operations Director at Royal Surrey Hospital

Julie Lowe – Chief Executive at North Middlesex Hospital

David Pratt – Finance Director at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals

 

  1. Sources of evidence to support the FPPR submission.

 

Interim relief hearing judgement:

 

https://sharmilachowdhury.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/judgment.pdf

 

 

Correspondences relating to moonlighting:

 

https://sharmilachowdhury.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/correspondences-          relating-to-moonlighting2.pdf

 

 

Evidence of moonlighting:

 

https://sharmilachowdhury.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/evidence-of-moon-lighting.pdf

 

 

Evidence of over claiming of overtimes:

 

https://sharmilachowdhury.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/over-claiming-of-overtimes.pdf

 

I will provide any other documentation or evidence on request. I am available for interview if required.

 

Sharmila Chowdhury

January 2015

 

 

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