Former South Devon NHS boss denies £20k fraud

BBC NEWS     24 June 201   From the section Devon
Dr Paula Vasco-Knight
Mrs Vasco-Knight was at one time NHS England’s national lead on equality and diversity matters

The former chief executive of an NHS Trust has denied defrauding it by siphoning off more than £20k to a company run by her husband.

Paula Vasco-Knight, 52, is alleged to have carried out the frauds in 2012 and 2013 while she was in charge of the South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.

Her husband Stephen has also denied receiving money fraudulently.

Businessman Habib Naqvi has denied enabling the offence to happen.

The allegations concern a payment of £9,000 made between October 2012 and April 2013 to a company run by Mr Vasco-Knight.

 

Mrs Vasco-Knight, who lives in Runcorn in Cheshire, is also alleged to have sent details of rival bids for a contract to produce leaflets to her husband via Mr Naqvi in August 2013.

Exeter Crown Court
Mrs Vasco-Knight is alleged to have ‘committed fraud by abusing her position as chief executive’ of the NHS Trust in Torbay

The third charge alleges she authorised a payment of £11,072 to her husband for work that was not done.

Mrs Vasco-Knight denied all three fraud charges when she appeared at Exeter Crown Court.

She is alleged to have “committed fraud by abusing her position as chief executive officer of the NHS Trust by ignoring normal procurement procedures”.

Torbay Hospital sign
South Devon NHS Foundation Trust runs Torbay Hospital

Mr Vasco-Knight, aged 45, denied one count of fraudulently receiving £11,072 in November 2013.

Mr Naqvi, aged 28, from Bristol, denied three counts of encouraging the commission of offences. He is alleged to have liaised with Mr or Mrs Vasco-Knight to process payments or pass on details of bidders.

Judge Graham Cottle adjourned all the cases for a two week trial in January 2017 and released all three defendants on bail.

Whistleblower surgeon wins battle to clear name

The Times 11 June 2016 

The liver specialist was subjected to abuse from colleagues and sacked after raising concerns about a failing NHS trust  JACK HOLLINGSWORTH/CORBIS

 

A surgeon who was subjected to abuse from colleagues and sacked after raising concerns about a failing NHS trust has won a five-year battle that has cost more than £1 million of public money.

Aditya Agrawal, a liver specialist, was persecuted for speaking up while working at East Lancashire NHS Trust, which had one of the highest death rates in the country.

An employment tribunal has ruled that the consultant, 44, was unfairly dismissed after enduring a campaign of abuse from fellow staff. There have been £300,000 legal costs and a further £700,000 in locum costs to cover his suspension.

One colleague said that he would not allow Mr Agrawal to operate on his dog. Another declared that he wouldn’t p*** on him if he was on fire.

Peter Bottomley, the Conservative MP for Worthing West, has called for an independent investigation into the trust, which was put into special measures in 2013 for the number of patient deaths in its care. “In my experience it’s the worst case I’ve dealt with,” said Mr Bottomley, whose wife, Virginia, is a former health secretary. “They accused Mr Agrawal of being responsible for nearly killing a patient when the opposite was the truth. The patient had been written off by another consultant as someone who couldn’t be saved.”

The consultant became a victim of a hate campaign at Blackburn Hospital in Lancashire for raising his concerns. Mr Agrawal was suspended in 2011 and sacked in 2015. Mr Agrawal reviewed the patient he was accused of “nearly killing” and concluded he could save the patient. Two days later that patient walked out of hospital.

Another of the allegations was that he had put a patient at risk by inappropriately discharging them. However, the patient in question was discharged two days after Mr Agrawal had been suspended, the tribunal heard.

The trust’s case against him was so discredited that its attempt to get him struck off by the GMC was itself struck out by the High Court through lack of evidence. “This man has his career ruined for four years and is unlikely to rebuild it after such devastating treatment. He hasn’t had paid work since the trust sacked him,” Mr Bottomley said.

“There needs to be an investigation because the trust’s case was against this consultant was non-existent and a vast amount of money has been wasted.”

Compensation and a decision on whether the trust will be ordered to re-employ the consultant will be made at a remedy hearing later this year.

Mr Agrawal, who is still out of work, did not want to comment on his victory. A friend of the surgeon said: “If the tribunal refuse to allow him to go back to his old job, who knows how long he will be unemployed.”

A spokesman for East Lancashire NHS Trust said: “The unfair dismissal succeeded due to procedural issues and the trust will learn lessons from this going forward.”

 

 

 

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New Cross Hospital whistleblower report: I won’t quit, says chief executive David Loughton

Express and Star   May 24, 2016
New Cross Hospital boss David Loughton will not quit over a damning report into how he treated a whistleblower – and insists there is no truth in her allegations about death rates and fraud.
                                                                                                                                                          New Cross Hospital's David LoughtonNew Cross Hospital’s David Loughton 

An independent inquiry found Mr Loughton was ‘dismissive’ of the claims made by staff member Sandra Haynes-Kirkbright and tried to ‘kick them into the long grass’ ahead of a key visit by a health watchdog.

Details of her treatment emerged in the report published earlier this month and prompted other whistleblowers to demand his resignation.

Speaking on the report for the first time, the £200,000-a-year boss was adamant there was “no truth whatsoever” in Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright’s allegations.

He said the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust was better off without certain individuals.

And asked if he had considered stepping down, Mr Loughton replied: “never.”

He added: “Three people who do not work for the trust have called for my head.

“How many letters do we think we have had from staff members at the hospital? We’ve had none. None at all. That says it all.

“Without doubt this organisation is better off without certain individuals.”

(21128115)New Cross Hospital 

Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright, who has been suspended from her £55,000 role as a coder since 2012, alleged the trust had fraudulently made money by charging for treatments it had not performed. The 52-year-old from Stafford also raised concerns that death rates were being made to look better than they were because they were wrongly registered.

But Mr Loughton told investigators that ‘no-one cares’ about allegations of fraud and that some people would say ‘good on you’ for ‘fiddling’ figures to get more money for the Trust.

Dr David Drew, a whistleblower sacked from Walsall Manor Hospital, said the Chief Executive “has to be finished”. Whistleblowers Professor David Ferry and Dr Raj Mattu were similarly critical of Mr Loughton.

The New Cross boss was speaking following a meeting of the trust’s Board of Directors, during which Chairman Jeremy Vanes spoke briefly on the report.

He said: “We support all staff that were named and involved, past and former staff, in the report.

“Secondly, we welcome the government review, which was one of the conclusions. We were planning to do one ourselves but that was delayed to wait for this report.

“Thirdly there are several active workstreams in terms of the outcomes and conclusions of the report which are not concluded, so it is very difficult for us to say anything more.

“We will be able to answer any questions in due course when all aspects have been resolved.”

Mr Loughton has been a NHS chief executive for 27 years. In 2010 he was appointed CBE for services to healthcare.

 

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

 

 

How HR can manage the new NHS whistleblowing policy

The new NHS whistleblowing policy is not going to be easy for HR teams to implement and manage. It’s not through lack of commitment by trusts, but enforcing a set of standards fine-tuned to a specific trust, will be a considerable challenge. Ben Western, public sector business development manager, at Software Europe, provides advice on how trusts can navigate the new policy and provide tips for getting started.

The arrival of the national whistleblowing policy shouldn’t be a surprise to trusts. The initial consultation took place in November last year and we’ve already had trusts talk to us about receiving policy support in the last few months. However, forewarned is not always forearmed.

There’s a lot to do and not much time. Existing local policies and procedures, if they exist, will now need urgent review to take into account the new whistleblowing policy.

Some trusts that we speak to don’t actually have an existing whistleblowing policy and others, which are able to demonstrate a policy, lack the tools to effectively manage any cases raised. Excel spreadsheets have become the de facto tool for logging all types of employee relations case, but unfortunately it doesn’t cut the mustard here.

Excel lacks the functionality to record key data, make it available to multiple people, lock down information from other people, or provide any sort of timeline or deadline alerts. No surprise really, it wasn’t designed for this job. Excel is just not going to give staff the confidence that whistleblowing cases are being handled properly.

In the next 12-months, it’s going to be important for trusts to review the new national policy, draft, ‘tweak’ or merge local policies to suit their employees and find the right tools to support them. Here’s my four tips for getting started.

 

Policy guidance

Firstly, when looking at existing policy, trusts must ensure that they are simple and easy to understand and ensure the policy is easily accessible to everyone. It should include and support as much of the workforce as possible. It needs to clearly set out the standard of behaviour expected by employees. It’s got to make clear what sort of disclosures or malpractices are covered. Transparency around whom and how to approach managers with any concerns is paramount.

 

Environment

HR managers also need to look at the wider business. Is there an environment which embraces the whistleblowing culture so it is no longer frowned upon? HR will need to make sure employees are comfortable with the whistleblowing process and understand that they will not suffer any detriment or dismissal through raising the concern.

 

Tools

HR will also need the right tools in place to do the job. Without those tools HR is hamstrung and no employee will have the confidence that a whistleblowing policy is going to be taken seriously. Any whistleblowing IT system needs to keep HR updated at every stage of the process. Email reminders and alerts are essential to keep the case on track. The system must be able to log concerns appropriately, securely and with no details missing. Depending on the case type, it should be possible to markup and treat certain cases as sensitive and confidential. It should also be possible to generate reports and automate the sharing of information with senior management and other parties so that they can evaluate the success of the policy and evaluate trends.

 

Analysis

Analytics is essential. A good system should be able to manage and interrogate case data, providing insights which managers can use to proactively identify issues and intervene. For example, if multiple whistleblowing concerns are being raised against a specific line manager, HR will be able to investigate and implement additional training or other programme to rectify the issue early.

 

The four tips above provide a good starting point for all NHS trusts facing the challenge of effectively handling whistleblowing cases compliant with policy before the 2017 deadline.

 

The bullying health chiefs who put cuts before care: Whistleblowers ignored and threatened with the sack

Mail on Line  By LIZ HULL FOR THE DAILY MAIL  2 May 2016
  • Health bosses at top NHS trust put thousands at risk with aggressive cuts
  • Executives ignored warnings from whistleblowers, threatened to sack them
  • Liverpool Community Health Trust bosses desperate for foundation status
  • They presided over an ‘oppressive’ culture of bullying and harassment 

Resigned: Chief Executive Bernie Cuthel

Health bosses at a top NHS trust put thousands at risk by aggressively driving through cuts at the expense of patient safety, a report has revealed.

In a case likened to the Mid-Staffordshire scandal, executives ignored endless warnings from whistleblowers – and threatened to sack them when they complained.

The £160,000 report said bosses at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust were so desperate to gain the Government’s coveted foundation status that huge budget cuts came before care.

They presided over an ‘oppressive’ culture of bullying and harassment between 2011 and 2014, where staff were afraid to speak out.

In one case, a district nurse was taken hostage at knifepoint and sexually assaulted by a patient’s relative in 2013 – but they did nothing. Some workers were ‘driven to the brink,’ while others even considered suicide.

Only when whistleblowers alerted an MP were watchdogs brought in and top managers forced out.

It is thought to be the first time NHS staff have forced out chiefs and kept their jobs. At least one boss is still working in the NHS, but the report recommends they should be investigated.

The report, ordered by the trust’s new management imposed in April 2014 and written by an independent law firm, likened the situation to that at Mid-Staffs Hospital, where up to 1,200 patients died.

It revealed that regulators and commissioners who inspected LCHT – providing community health services for 750,000 people in Liverpool and Merseyside – also failed to notice what was going on.

Last night, Labour MP Rosie Cooper, contacted by the whistleblowers after complaints about her own elderly father’s care, demanded an inquiry. The report also revealed that bosses stockpiled £3million of taxpayers’ money due to be spent on district nurses.

Review author Moosa Patel, head of governance at law firm Capsticks, said problems began in 2011 soon after LCHT was formed.

He said chief executive Bernie Cuthel, her executive nurse and operations director Helen Lockett, director of human resources and organisational development Michelle Porteus – and the non-executive board – were determined to gain foundation status.

It meant they pushed through savings regardless of the impact on patients or staff. Introduced by Labour in 2002, foundation status enables best-performing trusts to set their own pay and build wards without prior Whitehall approval.

Michelle PorteusHelen Lockett
Named: Michelle Porteus (l) and Helen Lockett (r). A report said bosses at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust were so desperate to gain the Government’s foundation status that huge budget cuts came before care

But the policy was discredited after it was revealed that criteria were too focused on savings.

Mr Patel found there was ‘a sustained drive from day one to achieve NHS foundation status. Inappropriate and unsafe care was not addressed and the response to adverse incidents was grossly deficient.

Speaking out about concerns was not easy. Such was the impact of this culture that some staff were driven to the brink.’

The report found that when staff raised concerns they were ignored or threatened with the sack.

When dentistry directors refused to sign off a 49 per cent or £2.7million budget cut they were suspended. Only when the chiefs were removed and new managers installed were they re-instated.

Last night Miss Cooper, who prompted the Care Quality Commission to investigate in January 2014 which led to the resignation of all three top managers, said a clinical inquiry was ‘vital’.

‘This report has uncovered an NHS scandal similar to Mid-Staffs but in community services,’ she said. ‘It is a peek through the keyhole.

‘There can be no hiding place for the executives who presided over this disgraceful state of affairs.’

An LCHT spokesman admitted there had been ‘deep-rooted’ problems but more than 150 nurses and other frontline staff had been recruited to boost quality of care.

 

Queen’s personal surgeon quits NHS Grampian 11 months after controversial suspension

The Press and Journal

23 April 2016 by Stephen Walsh

Professor Zygmunt Krukowski
Professor Zygmunt Krukowski

The Queen’s surgeon in Scotland has quit his post at NHS Grampian – a year after being controversially suspended by the health board.

Professor Zygmunt Krukowksi was suspended from his job at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in May following a probe into his conduct.

Last night, health chiefs confirmed the 67-year-old had left NHS Grampian.

His colleague Dr Wendy Craig, who had also been suspended, has also stepped down from her job at the health board.

Neither Prof Krukowski nor Dr Craig could be contacted for comment.

The Queen’s Surgeon in Scotland is responsible for the care of the monarch when she stays at Balmoral.

It was not clear last night whether Prof Krukowski will continue with his royal duties.

When his suspension was announced last year, his predecessor Colonel Michael Stewart publicly backed him and described him as “a most professional and remarkable surgeon”.

The resignations of Prof Krukowski and Dr Craig were confirmed just days after the conclusions of a report into the behaviour of senior staff at the north-east’s flagship hospital were made public.

The report, carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons in England (RCS), called for “major changes” to be made at ARI.

It found there was “real potential” for the working environment to “impact on patient care”.

The health board came under fire following its decision to suspend both surgeons, and refer them to the General Medical Council.

The board’s former medical director, Donnie Ross, was among those who accused health bosses of taking “revenge” on the pair after they raised concerns about the running of ARI.

In addition, a total of 21 medics – all with links to NHS Grampian – criticised the suspensions, and demanded that the truth about the move was made public.

In an open letter to Health Secretary Shona Robison, they suggested it was simply because they had spoken out against management and urged her to reinstate them.

The signatories demanded a judge-led inquiry into the management of the health board.

The RCS was commissioned to lead an investigation into a “dramatic breakdown” in team work at the hospital.

The inspectors were asked to examine the behaviour of surgeons, as well as outcomes of 16 operations – mainly on the gall bladder, liver and bile ducts – in September 2014.

Initially, health bosses refused to publish the report, despite a groundswell of opposition to their decision.

The Press and Journal made two attempts to view the report under freedom of information laws – only to be given a copy of the 69-page document with 49 pages blacked out line-by-line.

However, on Monday, the Press and Journal revealed the conclusions of the report after a Scottish Information Commissioner’s ruling paved the way for them to be made public.

It emerged that a number of unnecessary operations were carried out on patients.

The report stated that “with the benefit of hindsight, the surgical treatment of these patients may not have been in their best interests”.

It also raised concerns over communication between staff at the hospital.

Second NHS whistleblower tsar quits as Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health sinks further into ‘crisis’

Mirror  3 APR 2016    
David Bell’s shock move back to his old NHS job follows the resignation of his boss, Dame Eileen Sills, before she even started work
David BellDeputy National Guardian David Bell has followed his old boss Dame Eileen Sills in stepping down VERY quickly

 

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s vow to protect medics who expose patient safety fears has hit a fresh setback.

The UK’s new deputy NHS whistleblowing tsar has left after less than six weeks in the role.

David Bell’s abrupt move back to his old NHS job follows the resignation of his boss, Dame Eileen Sills.

Campaigners say the latest exit is a sign that the new Office of the National Guardian – due to open last Friday – is in a “crisis” that means patients “will suffer”.

It was to be a centre-piece of Mr Hunt’s pledge to protect whistleblowers following the Stafford Hospital scandal.

REX/ShutterstockJeremy Hunt
Campaigners claim Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is presiding over a ‘crisis’

Dr Minh Alexander, who was forced to quit after she exposed suicides and abuse at a mental health trust in Cambridgeshire, said of Mr Bell’s departure: “This shows the Office of the National Guardian is in crisis.

“I am not surprised – the design of the office has been flawed. What is needed is a truly independent body.

“It is patients who will suffer if the Government continues to insist upon flawed half measures.”

Read more: NHS bosses blew £61,000 on whistleblowing tsar who QUIT before starting job

The national office and a network of local Guardians based in every NHS trust were key demands of Sir Robert Francis’s review in February 2015 into NHS whistleblowing.

PAEileen Sills
Dame Eileen Sills quit before even starting work

The Care Quality Commission, the health watchdog involved in setting up the national office, declined to say if Mr Bell had quit or been pushed to return to his job at the NHS South East Commissioning Support Unit.

Dame Eileen quit last month, nine weeks after the Daily Mirror exposed how she would work only two days a week and would keep her £174,000-a-year job as chief nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London.

‘Treatment of NHS whistleblowers is ‘a stain on its reputation’

The Telegraph   By Laura Donnelly and agencies     21 Jan 2015
All NHS whistleblowers who are vindicated should be offered a personal apology, and ‘practical redress’ such as compensation or a new job, MPs say
Dr Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, said that she believed that Downing Street had shelved the idea of open primaries over fears that they may favour “outspoken” candidates.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes, said that she believed that Downing Street had shelved the idea of open primaries over fears that they may favour “outspoken” candidates.       

 

The treatment of whistleblowers by the NHS is “a stain on its reputation” which has destroyed livelihoods and caused “inexcusable pain” to health professionals, MPs have warned.

The Commons Health Select Committee said repeated failures to listen to staff who warned of risks to patients is jeopardising safety and deterring others from blowing the whistle.

Its inquiry into complaints and raising concern said every NHS whistleblower who is vindicated should be given an apology, and “practical redress” – such as a new job, or financial compensation for the damage to their career.

The damning conclusions come as a separate review of whistleblowing considers more than 17,000 submissions about the treatment meted out to those who have tried to raise the alarm on poor care.

They include Dr Raj Mattu, a cardiologist, who was suspended for eight years, then sacked,

after raising concerns about patient safety. The heart specialist told he was “hounded mercilessly” out of his job at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, before winning an unfair dismissal tribunal last year.

Nurse Helene Donnelly told the Mid Staffs inquiry that she became frightened to leave work unaccompanied after warning managers at Stafford Hospital that targets were being manipulated.

In a damning report, MPs said the NHS needed to do far more to ensure staff with concerns felt able to speak out.

“The treatment of whistleblowers remains a stain on the reputation of the NHS and has led to unwarranted and inexcusable pain for a number of individuals,” the report warns.

“The treatment of those whistleblowers has not only caused them direct harm but has also undermined the willingness of others to come forward and this has ongoing implications for patient safety,” it warns.

MPs also called for major changes to the NHS system of complaints, saying there should be “one gateway” for all concerns by patients, regardless of whether their concern was about a hospital, GP or social care.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the committee, said too often those raising concerns were “plagued by delays,” while lessons failed to be learned because cases were handled by call centres hundreds of miles away.

She said: “There can be no excuse for not implementing a complaints service which is easy to use and responsive to patients and their families but sadly the situation remains variable.”

The report calls for one” single, easily identified gateway for complainants” which passes complaints to the right place.

Dr Wollaston said too often, cases were passed from pillar to post, with one complaint about a doctor in the South West of the country ending up being handled first by an NHS centre in Leeds, and then diverted to London.

She said: “In the case of primary care for example, we do not feel that complaints should be investigated in an entirely different part of the country or plagued by delays.”

The report says a separate ongoing review of NHS whistleblowing, led by Sir Robert Francis QC, the barrister who led the public inquiry into Mid-Staffs, is now considering 17,500 online responses and more than 600 written submissions.

NHS whistleblower cases must be reopened

Sarah Wollaston, on behalf of the Health Select Committee, has belatedly responded to my call for the government to reopen NHS whistleblower cases. It is the government’s position that this is not going to happen. Below is the paper I submitted to HSC arguing that an examination of these cases is a matter of natural justice and key to learning lessons that will help change the present victimising NHS culture.

David Drew

11 March 2016.

 

NHS whistleblower cases must be reopened. Practical redress and apologies are needed

In her letter of 26 March 2015 Dr Wollaston, wrote to me (Dr David Drew) on the recommendations in the Complaints and Raising Concerns report January 2015 concerning “historic” NHS whistleblower cases:

We hope that our successor Committee in the new Parliament will monitor the progress made by the Government and NHS England to implement the recommendations.

 

We are now some months into the new parliament so it is right for me to ask what if any progress has been made.

My concern in my original email to Dr Wollaston was with recommendation 21. May I summarise the present situation.

On 11 February 2015, following the launch of Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up Review report, the Secretary of State for Health made this statement to the House of Commons:

Sir Robert has confirmed the need for further change in his report today. He said he heard again and again of horrific stories of people’s lives being destroyed—people losing their jobs, being financially ruined, being brought to the brink of suicide and with family lives shattered—because they had tried to do the right thing for patients. Eminent and respected clinicians had their reputations maligned. There are stories of fear, bullying, ostracisation and marginalisation, as well as psychological and physical harm. There are reports of a culture of “delay, defend and deny”, with “prolonged rants” directed at people branded “snitches, troublemakers and backstabbers”, who were then blacklisted from future employment in the NHS as the system closed ranks.

(Hansard)

The emphases are mine.

I was one of the six senior NHS whistleblowers who met Jeremy Hunt and Simon Stevens in June 2014. This meeting led to the Health Secretary commissioning the Freedom to Speak Up Review. Both Mr. Hunt and Mr. Stevens praised us personally for our courage in speaking up for patients. We were of course grateful for their appreciation.

We knew full well from personal experience what an NHS whistleblowers lot is and we were pleased that Sir Robert, when his report finally appeared, described it so clearly. I think this was the first time the widespread, severe victimisation of good NHS staff by senior management has been officially acknowledged.  He also clearly attributed our victimisation to our “trying to do the right thing for patients”.

It was therefore a major disappointment to read at the end of Sir Robert’s report, almost as an afterthought:

Finally I recognise that some of those who have contributed so constructively to the Review will feel that their own personal issues have not been addressed. This was perhaps inevitable given my remit, but I have to observe that in some of their cases the contention has endured over such a long time, and the issues have become so complex, that the most rigorous inquiry devoted to each such case would not have been able to resolve matters for those involved.

This I imagine was exactly what the Department of Health would have wished to hear. Sir Robert was not asked to make any recommendation on how our cases should be dealt with. Nevertheless he did, in the most negative terms possible. He cites duration and complexity as arguments about re-examining our cases. Take whistleblower Dr Raj Mattu as an example. Last year he won his case at tribunal after many years of legal struggle. His case lasted many months and was so complex that he was cross examined for 3 weeks. His remedy hearing has lasted 2 weeks so far and when it resumes this month is expected to take another 2 weeks. If Dr Mattu had considered duration of struggle and complexity to be barriers he would never have vindicated himself. And this is primarily what whistleblowers want, vindication. And the redress that will follow that.

Sir Robert’s view needs to be contrasted with recommendations from your own committee (Complaints and raising concerns January 2015), the Clwyd-Hart Review (October 2103) and the NHS Confederation statement to the Freedom to Speak Up Review. I also refer to comments from David Behan and Simon Stevens. The reaction of the whistle-blowers themselves and the press reaction when the Freedom to Speak was published are salutary.

 

  1. Health Select Committee.

Recommendation 21:

We expect the NHS to respond in a timely, honest and open manner to patients, and we must expect the same for staff. We recommend that there should be a programme to identify whistle-blowers who have suffered serious harm and whose actions are proven to have been vindicated, and provide them with an apology and practical redress.

(Complaints and raising concerns January 2015),

On 21 January, following the publication of the report, Dr. Wollaston went on National Television and said that the treatment of NHS whistleblowers is a stain on its reputation. Dr. Wollaston was widely quoted in the same vein in the national press. For example:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/nhs/11358111/Treatment-of-NHS-whistleblowers-is-a-stain-on-its-reputation.html

Dr. Wollaston was speaking in her capacity as Health Select Committee chair. It is unusual (in my opinion) to see such genuine moral outrage in our politicians. The recommendation for an apology and redress is clearly based on a sense of the deeply unjust way in which whistleblowers have been treated. (It is generally true that even when NHS whistleblowers have won their claims at ET and the NHS managers have been described as “unreliable witnesses” etc., those managers still do not apologise.) I hope therefore that the Health Select Committee will vigorously pursue its suggested remedy and ensure that our cases are re-opened. 

 

  1. NHS Confederation.

 We note the Committee’s comments on the experience of some whistleblowers in the NHS and how this is at odds with improvements in culture and confidence elsewhere.  We support the calls for practical redress for those who have been harmed as a consequence of raising genuine concerns.

(NHS Confederation (“the authentic voice of NHS leadership) in response to Complaints and Raising Concerns report)

 

  1. Clwyd-Hart Report October 2013.

However, we have heard in the course of our work repeated concerns about a number of unresolved questions surrounding this issue. These concerns relate firstly to securing justice for past whistle-blowers whose careers have been seriously jeopardised and who have suffered financially as a result of drawing attention to malpractice. We urge the Department of Health to undertake the review of such cases with a view to both learning lessons for the future and undertaking restorative justice for those individuals affected.

(Clwyd-Hart Report Chapter 6, page 37.)

Ann Clwyd clearly saw the victimisation of whistleblowers as a justice issue.

 

  1. David Behan, chief executive of the Care Quality Commission:

It takes great courage for health professionals to raise concerns about care and so they must be reassured that when they do come forward that they will not suffer as a result. No one should be punished for acting in the public’s best interest.

(Quoted from Guardian Newspaper 11 February 2011)

The point is that we have suffered and we have been punished for acting in the best interests of patients and the public. The boss of the principal healthcare regulator can glibly say this knowing full well that neither he nor anyone else has lifted a finger to help such public spirited professionals.

 

  1. Simon Stevens CEO at NHS England

As a nation we can rightly be proud of the fact that NHS care is now the safest it has ever been. But as I’ve sat down and listened hard to whistleblowers over the past year, it’s blindingly obvious that the NHS has been missing a huge opportunity to learn and improve the care we offer to patients and the way we treat our staff.

(NHS England comment on Freedom to Speak Up report 11 February 2015)

Simon Stevens makes a good point which seems to have been entirely lost on Sir Robert Francis. First, numerous clinical incidents were reported to Sir Robert. In our letter to the Telegraph of 13 February 2015 (“Crimes in the NHS”) Dr. Minh Alexander and I wrote:

He is in possession of claims of cover-ups of children’s deaths, deaths in custody, physical abuse and neglect, fraud. Many of these are unresolved.

No-one has shown the slightest interest in learning from these incidents. I feel sure that the burden of patient harm and wrongdoing reported to Sir Robert in the Freedom to Speak Up Review easily exceeded that reported to him at Mid Staffs.

Sir Robert has been unable to prescribe a remedy for those NHS staff who have suffered horrendous victimisation nor has he called to account the managers (CEOs and Trust board members) responsible for this. Forgetting the injustice of this for a second, nothing has been learned about these people. Are they monsters or just ordinary people following orders?

All this learning has been lost by what is essentially a political unwillingness to look closely at what has happened.

 

  1. NHS Whistlebowers.

There must, I think, be universal agreement amongst the whistleblowers themselves that “historic” cases must be re-examined. I have formed this opinion through social media, emails and other correspondence and face to face meetings. I published my own personal view in an open letter to Sir Robert in the Independent on Sunday on 14 February:

You have sent out exactly the wrong message. Whistleblowers are pawns who will not receive help, even from you. You have left us to our fate. This will have a further deterrent effect on staff raising concerns. The managers who have victimised us will feel more secure than they already were. They remain unaccountable. Patients who depend on our freedom to speak up will be less safe.

You see culture as central and make a number of recommendations for NHS culture change. You call for a just culture in which we learn from honest mistakes and do not punish those who make them. But how can a just culture be built on the foundation of injustice which is laid down by your failure to address the victimisation so many have experienced?

We all make mistakes all the time. We are human. Honest mistakes are not to be punished but learned from. That is essential to a just culture. But intentional wrongdoing must be held accountable. That is also essential to a just culture. Sir Robert (he has been described as the unjust judge in one blog) has allowed the reporters of wrongdoing to go to jail (a life sentence as he admitted) and the wrongdoers (as identified by him) to walk Scot free. A just culture is incompatible with this.

 

  1. National, International and Local Media.

There was massive coverage of the report’s launch. Many of us did a large number of interviews. I did eighteen. We did this despite the obviously engineered disadvantage we suffered by only having forty minutes with the 200+ page report before we met Sir Robert for questions and then the Press. The coverage overwhelmingly recognised the truth of Sir Roberts account. The best analyses of his report were highly skeptical of his proposed solutions. For example on 12 February Andrew Smith wrote in the Guardian:

In Freedom to Speak Up, the report on the plight of NHS whistleblowers published this week, Sir Robert Francis interviewed 612 victims, many of whom I know had high hopes. But his recommendations have turned out to be toothless and probably ineffectual.

The Mail and other newspapers on the same day expressed the same sentiment:

A report into the NHS’s shocking treatment of whistleblowers was yesterday branded a ‘whitewash’ that will do nothing to protect staff who raise concerns.

A notable theme was the complete failure of the report to hold anyone accountable for the way decent professionals had been victimised for doing their job. At an earlier Health Select Committee hearing Sir Robert said that CEOs supressing whistleblowers should be sacked. By the time of his report he appears to have done a complete U-turn. This has never been explained but I presume is due to political pressure.

 

The Government Response.

The Government response to the House of Commons Health Select Committee Fourth Report of session 2014–15 Complaints and Raising Concerns was published in March 2015 shortly before Dr Wollaston wrote to me.

 In response to the report’s Recommendation 21

We expect the NHS to respond in a timely, honest and open manner to patients, and we must expect the same for staff. We recommend that there should be a programme to identify whistle-blowers who have suffered serious harm and whose actions are proven to have been vindicated, and provide them with an apology and practical redress.

 

 The Department of Health commented:

 As the Freedom to Speak Up report indicates, the issues faced by historic whistle-blowers can often be complex. Many cases have already been considered by the courts and the Government’s view is that there can be no general basis for reopening cases that have been through a legal process.

 

This is exactly the get out of jail response that I would have expected from the Department of Health. In 2001 the Department of Health accepted Ian Kennedy’s recommendation (Bristol Heart Scandal report) that it develop a safe NHS reporting culture. It has failed to do that. A high percentage of NHS staff still fear being ignored or suffering retaliation if they report concerns about patient care and this creates a daily risk to patients. It is a fear that is well founded. The Freedom to Speak Up review is a stark reminder that the Department of Health failed to do as Kennedy recommended. That failure has resulted in an unknown number of patient deaths and much unnecessary suffering. If the Department of Health had secured a safe reporting culture the Mid Staffs tragedy would not have happened & the Public Inquiry would have been avoided. If they had secured a safe reporting culture the NHS professionals who suffered the horrific victimisation described by Francis in his February 2015 report would have been spared their suffering. The Department of Health pays lip service to their courage. In practice it never lifted a finger to help them. Small wonder the Department of Health does not want any historic cases re-opening. That would prove extremely embarrassing. Please consider the rationalisations they present for not re-opening our cases:

“The issues faced by historic whistle-blowers can often be complex”

They are complex precisely because the victimising managers that Sir Robert identified made them complex, taking what in most cases were genuine and serious complaints and turning them into employment disputes in which we as employees found ourselves on the wrong end of breakdown in trust and confidence claims. In any case since when was complexity an argument against addressing widely recognised injustice and the need to ensure a safer future. The Hillsborough Independent Panel (events of 1989) and the Goddard CSA Inquiry (now retrospective to 1940) are dealing with matters of greater complexity but in terms of harm to patients and professionals no greater seriousness.

Many cases have already been considered by the courts

 These cases have been considered in terms of employment law. Sir Robert knows this perfectly well. The disadvantage whistleblowers suffer in the tribunals is widely acknowledged, hence the reluctance most have to risk financial ruin. The Health Committee has already recognised all this and advised, in section 3 of its response to the Francis Public Inquiry report,

Disciplinary procedures, professional standards hearings and employment tribunals are not appropriate forums for constructive airings of honestly-held concerns about patient safety and care quality.

Whistleblowers should never have been put through internal disciplinary procedures which are completely biased and part of the victimisation they suffer. They should never be put through the stress, financial risk and huge disadvantage of the tribunals. This is also part of the victimisation they have suffered. The fact that some of us have had a hearing in the tribunals in the narrow confines of employment law is no argument for turning a blind eye to the injustices we have suffered.

There can be no general basis for reopening cases that have been through a legal process.

 There may be no general basis but there must be a basis for individual cases. Otherwise what can we make of the widespread support there is for reopening cases including that made by Health Select Committee. It is clearly the view of the Secretary of State and the Department of Health that even the gravest injustice cannot be addressed, even the most deserving case must not be re-opened. That would risk further publicity and an avalanche of other claims.

 

In summary, there is a widespread perception of unfairness in the way the NHS has treated its whistleblowers and the way the Department of Health has consistently failed to protect them. Up to the present Parliament has also failed. Good doctors, nurses and other staff are still suffering the consequences of their victimisation. New whistleblowers to this day are suffering the same fate as the “historic” cases. Whistleblowers are still signing super-gags with the Treasury’s knowledge. The managers responsible for our victimisation are still enjoying their own career progress and there is a widespread perception that they are untouchable.

In August 2014 Margaret Hodge Public Accounts Select Committee chair told the Guardian newspaper that “no senior manager had ever been held to account for victimising a whistleblower”. She stated in the same article that she had been “dismayed by the way ministers and senior managers have failed to protect the public interest”.

Small wonder that the worst NHS managers still feel free to ignore and mistreat staff who raise concerns. The real losers in all this are patients. Their safety depends on a safe reporting culture. Jeremy Hunt told Parliament in February that we are 10 years (or on another occasion a generation) away from that. That is why “historic” cases must be re-opened. Justice must be done and be seen to be done. A clear message (Sir Robert ducked this completely) must be sent to those who victimise whistleblowers. And patients and the public must be reassured that their safety which often depends on professional advocacy is truly being made the top priority.

David Drew

February 2015.

 

 

NHS Whistleblowing: Public Accounts Committee report 2016

Making a whistleblowing policy work: progress update  

11 March 2016

Summary

We are concerned that the Government’s response to the previous committee’s report on whistleblowing has been too focused on policy and process, rather than on taking the lead to drive the much needed cultural change required to encourage and support whistleblowers to come forward. We are disappointed by the lack of urgency shown in dealing with this important topic, which is illustrated by the fact that the ‘Task and Finish’ group, set up to look at whistleblowing across Whitehall, which was a key component of the Government’s response, has only met once. We are also concerned that government’s focus is limited to departments rather than ensuring whistleblowing is also dealt with effectively in the wider public sector and in private and third sector providers delivering public services.

Introduction

Whistleblowing is when an employee raises a concern about wrongdoing, malpractice or poor practice in the workplace that has a public interest aspect to it. In August 2014 the previous committee reported on whistleblowing, noting that a positive approach to whistleblowing should exist wherever the taxpayer’s pound is spent. However, the committee found that too often whistleblowers had been shockingly treated, and that departments’ attempts at changing whistleblowing policy and processes for the better had not been successful in modifying a bullying culture, or in combating unacceptable behaviour. The Cabinet Office has issued whistleblowing guidance which includes detailed procedures about how to raise concerns and has responsibility for overseeing whistleblowing arrangements.

Conclusions and recommendations

1.We are disappointed at the slow progress made by the Cabinet Office and departments in improving whistleblowingarrangements. Nearly a year and a half has elapsed since the previous committee reported on whistleblowing, but we heard little to convince us that any real change has occurred on the ground. Witnesses were unable to tell us how many reports on the effectiveness of whistleblowing arrangements go to departmental boards, or which departments are lagging behind in implementing effective arrangements. Opportunities to secure improvements through shared learning are hampered by the absence of a formal platform for HR directors (or other nominated officers) or board members to share and apply good practice and learn lessons following reviews in this area, such as the Francis review of whistleblowing in the NHS.

Recommendation: We expect Cabinet Office to report to us by June 2016 on progress in addressing our recommendations.

2.We are concerned that the ‘Task and Finish’ group, established to look at whistleblowing across Whitehall, has met only once.The ‘Task and Finish’ group, described in the Government’s response to the previous committee’s report as being a key player in ‘reviewing Departments’ practices and providing a challenge to existing processes’ has only met once without any tangible result. The Committee heard that the Group had no plans to meet again, but the Cabinet Office agreed to consider whether further meetings would be useful.

Recommendation: The Government should set out what the ‘Task and Finish’ group’s role is and how it intends to review whistleblowing arrangements across government.

3.Policy and process implementation are steps in the right direction, but by themselves will not create the right environment forwhistleblowers to come forward. We recognise the progress that has been made in producing policy guidance on whistleblowing. But we are concerned that efforts to date have been too focused on implementing policies and procedures, rather than instilling the positive cultures and behaviours required to support those raising a concern, which should result in better treatment for whistleblowers and more effective handling of their concerns. The Cabinet Office was unable to provide any evidence about which departments were performing well, and which were lagging behind.

Recommendation: Cabinet Office should work with departments to create the right environment for whistleblowers to come forward, including support for staff at induction, working with departments to identify the ‘best in class’ in what works in supporting whistleblowers, and holding departments to account where progress is below the standards expected.

4.The Cabinet Office does not have the data it needs on whistleblowing to identify where improvements are needed. The Cabinet Office could not provide information on departments’ performance on whistleblowing as it lacked data in many areas including: the number and type of cases; the outcome of cases; whether whistleblowers have complained of victimisation or discrimination as a result of their actions; and how many still worked in the department after raising their concerns. The Cabinet Office was waiting for data to be collected and analysed in early 2016.

Recommendation: We expect the Cabinet Office to share with us, by the end of June 2016, an analysis of the data it has collected, and an action plan detailing how this data will be used to secure improvements where needed in departments. In the future, the Cabinet Office should collect data on an annual basis to support its role of holding departments to account on whistleblowing arrangements.

5.The Cabinet Office’s focus is limited to whistleblowing in departments rather than seeking to ensure it is also dealt with effectively in the wider public sector and in private and third sector providers delivering public services. The College of Policing review of the police service and the Francis review of the health sector both highlighted the need for effective whistleblowing policies in the wider public sector. But the present approach is limited to collecting data on core departments, which risks missing valuable intelligence on whistleblowing across the wider public, private and third sectors. The Cabinet Office maintained that government does not have the capacity to act in this space, but we consider that departments charged with delivering public services should be able to provide assurances that those delivering services on their behalf are treating whistleblowers appropriately, and feel confident that they have sufficient intelligence to act on systemic issues.

Recommendation: The Cabinet Office should require the wider public sector and private and third sector providers delivering public services to both have effective whistleblowing arrangements in place and report on concerns raised by whistleblowers to identify any systemic issues.

 

To view full report:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmpubacc/602/60202.htm

Learning from mistakes means you’ll have to start listening to NHS whistleblowers, Jeremy Hunt @Jeremy_Hunt Please RT

The Independent 9 March 2016       Dr David Drew  @NHSwhistleblowr
Hunt is in danger of becoming not just the longest serving but possibly the most unpopular Health Secretary ever. He’s presiding over a culture of low morale
web-jeremy-hunt-1-pa.jpgThe Francis report identified poor treatment of whistleblowers in the NHS. PA

In a couple of months Jeremy Hunt will, if he survives, become the longest ever serving Health Secretary. In his search for a legacy he appears to have seized upon patient safety. This is not surprising, given the political advantage presented to him in February 2013 by the Francis report into Mid Staffordshire. Scarcely a week goes by without him telling us of the horrors Francis uncovered in that hospital.

It is right that we should be reminded. But not on his terms that this was a Labour-generated disaster in patient care. The truth is much more complex. In any case, NHS staff are, in my experience, sick and tired of having the health service used as a political football in this way.

Hunt tells us that the NHS needs to use “black box thinking” and learn from its mistakes. In the time left to him in office it is essential that he learns from his own. He need look no further than his own responsibility for the low staff morale which puts patients at risk.

Healthcare is profoundly labour intensive. The NHS employs 1.4 million people, accounting for 70 per cent of its total budget. Nothing can be achieved without having the workforce on side. Yet Hunt is in danger of becoming not just the longest serving but possibly the most unpopular Health Secretary ever.

The NHS staff survey paints a woeful picture of low morale: high levels of bullying and a culture of fear in many institutions deter healthcare professionals from speaking up for patients. A recent Kings Fund study showed that the principle anxiety of most NHS finance directors is not huge deficits but low staff morale. The CQC inspections Hunt lauds for improving the worst trusts are widely seen as instruments of bullying. Trusts are put into special measures for reasons that are beyond their control. Underfunded and understaffed, they are continually fire fighting to provide any kind of service at all. It is impossible to create sustainable improvement by inspection in these circumstances.

 

Hunt is now in danger of further alienating the professionals he depends on to deliver his safety agenda. Nowhere is this better exemplified than with his imposition of the junior doctor’s contract. This is not the way to deal with intelligent and highly skilled professionals. Barely a single senior NHS manager supports him in this madness. Senior managers know that he is damaging their doctors – in some cases irreversibly. Don Berwick, Hunt’s one-time favourite patient safety guru, told a recent conference that he should apologise to the junior doctors for the contract negotiations.

Ironically, given his claims about learning from mistakes, the single group he has alienated more than any other is whistleblowers. They are the vanguards of a safe NHS reporting culture. In 2014 Hunt praised their courage openly and asked Robert Francis QC to review the treatment of NHS whistleblowers.

In 2015, Francis reported widespread severe victimisation of staff by senior management when they spoke up for patients. His most substantial recommendation was for a National Guardian to protect staff. This, in the hands of the CQC, turns out to be a part time post with no powers. The appointee, Dame Eileen Sills, quit before starting.

 

Meanwhile, whistleblower victimisation continues and those responsible for that victimisation are protected. Francis recognised that sacked whistleblowers are blacklisted and recommended a re-employment scheme. Not one person has yet been found a job. This can only serve to reinforce the natural reluctance of staff to speak up.

Black box thinkers are not afraid to admit they made mistakes. They see failure as a great opportunity to learn. If Hunt really is a black box thinker, if he is willing to learn from his mistakes, he may just be remembered as the Health Secretary who made the NHS safer for patients and staff.

Dr David Drew was dismissed by Walsall Manor Hospital for “insubordination” and “gross misconduct”. He claims the action against him followed whistleblowing, but lost an appeal on those grounds. 

 

More related articles:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/jeremy-hunt-promises-whistleblowers-safe-spaces-and-legal-cover-a6919721.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-hunt-s-confrontation-with-junior-doctors-derailed-the-nhs-own-work-to-deliver-seven-day-a6908251.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/junior-doctors-strike-nhs-labour-abandon-patients-support-march-9-a6921196.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/junior-doctor-morale-review-ordered-by-jeremy-hunt-in-disarray-after-medics-threaten-to-withdraw-a6898571.html

Too many avoidable errors in patient care, says NRLS report

8 March 2016

These are the findings of two reports launched today by researchers from Imperial College London.  Both reports, produced by NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (PSTRC), provide evidence on the current state of patient safety and how it could be improved the future.  They urge healthcare providers to embrace a more open and transparent culture to encourage continuous learning and harm reduction.

The first report focuses on the current system used by NHS staff to report patient safety incidents, called the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS).

Erik Mayer, lead author of the report, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial, explains:

The UK has one of the biggest incident reporting systems in the world. But despite this, evidence suggests that as little as 5 per cent of patient safety incidents are reported. This is often related to the culture of institutions and the culture of medicine. For instance, staff may witness an incident that should be reported, but are hesitant to do so for fear of repercussions.

The second report, Patient Safety 2030, suggests a ‘toolbox’ for patient safety. This would include: using digital technology to improve safety; providing robust training and education, and strengthening leadership at the political, organisational, clinical and community levels.

However, the authors warn that interventions implemented to reduce avoidable patient harm must be engineered with the whole system in mind, and empower patients and staff to become more involved in preventing harm and improving care.

 

The publications: “NRLS Research and Development Final Report”, funded by NHS England.

The “Patient Safety 2030”, funded by a grant from the Health Foundation, an independent charity.

                                                                     View Report

 

 

Health reform chief backed contracts with ‘gagging clause’

The Sunday Times   Martyn Halle Published: 6 March 2016

Mackey: deals stopped former staff revealing informationMackey: deals stopped former staff revealing information

THE senior official tasked with implementing urgent reform of the NHS authorised the use of contracts that were later outlawed amid concern they could dissuade whistleblowers from speaking out.

In his last five years as chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT), Jim Mackey sanctioned dozens of compromise agreements — now known as settlement agreements — which prevented departing employees from disclosing information about the trust.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that 62 of the agreements were signed between 2011 and 2015. The 45 agreements signed between 2011 and 2013 included a clause that prevented staff from disclosing the existence of the agreement.

Mackey has been chosen by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, to lead NHS Improvement, a new regulatory body created by the merger of the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor, which comes into effect in April.

Three years ago, Hunt was forced to ban “gagging clauses” in compromise agreements. He took the step after Gary Walker, a former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, broke such a clause to speak about his dismissal in 2010 and concerns over care. At the time, Hunt said: “There has been a culture where people felt if you speak up about problems in the NHS, you didn’t love the NHS. Actually, it’s exactly the opposite.

“We are now saying we won’t approve any [compromise agreements] with a confidentiality clause that prevents people speaking out about patient safety or patient care.”

NHFT said none of its compromise agreements involved staff members who had raised concerns about safety or care. It said that, like many trusts, it used the agreements when employees decided to accept a voluntary severance package.

Ann Stringer, executive director of human resources at NHFT, said: “Our use of settlement agreements are in line with national best practice, fully support the openness and transparency agenda and should in no way be confused with the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which allows any employee, whether or not they are party to a settlement agreement, to make a disclosure in the public interest. We . . . would categorically refute any suggestion that our staff are not able to raise concerns.”

But Fiona Bell, who received an apology from NHFT for the poor treatment received by her grandfather, who died in 2009, and who obtained the figures, said: “Gagging staff with compromise agreements is a way of stopping them speaking about patient safety.”

Mackey declined to comment. The Department of Health said: “Under no circumstances should clauses seek to prevent the departing employee from making a disclosure in the public interest.”

CQC statement on the resignation of Dame Eileen Sills as National Guardian

Care Quality Commission 4 March 2016

Dame Eileen Sills has announced her resignation from her role as the National Guardian for speaking up safely within the NHS. 

Sir Robert Francis QC has offered non-executive support to the Office of the National Guardian until a new appointment is made.

Dame Eileen is Chief Nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. She was appointed to the new role in January.

She said: “It has been a very difficult decision to take but after two months it is very clear that it is not possible to combine the role of the National Guardian – and establishment of the office – with the increasing challenges NHS providers face, while doing justice to both roles. My commitment to our patients and staff at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust means that I have to step down from the National Guardian role.”

David Behan, Chief Executive of CQC, said: “I was disappointed to receive Dame Eileen’s resignation but I respect her honesty in making this difficult decision. A new appointment process will begin immediately. The work of setting up the office of the National Guardian will continue as planned, with a focus on supporting and working with freedom to speak up guardians in NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts.”

Sir Robert Francis QC said: “The office of the National Guardian is a vital element in the drive to change the culture of the NHS to one which welcomes and supports staff who raise concerns. Separately from my role as a CQC Board member I am happy to offer non-executive support for the Office as it continues its work until a Guardian is appointed.”

 

Notes to editors

The need for an independent National Guardian for the NHS was a recommendation of Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up review in February 2015. The role of the National Guardian is to lead, advise and support a network of individuals within NHS trusts, appointed as ‘local freedom to speak up guardians’, who will be responsible for developing a culture of openness at trust level.  The office of the National Guardian is hosted by CQC, with the appointment of the National Guardian made by CQC with NHS Improvement and NHS England. The focus of the reappointment process will be on identifying the best person for the role, with flexibility accorded to individual circumstances.

 

For further information about Sir Robert Francis’s Freedom to Speak Up review, please visit:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sir-robert-francis-freedom-to-speak-up-review.

 

NHS national guardian: ‘I understand what it’s like to provide care on the frontline’

The Guardian 24 February 2016
Eileen Sills    Chief nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust in London

Dame Eileen Sills, the first national guardian with a remit to support NHS whistleblowers, explains what she hopes to acheive in her new job

Dame Eileen Sills
Dame Eileen Sills: ‘I have no doubt that we can make the changes that are needed to deliver a new culture of transparency and openness.’ Photograph: Eloise Parfitt

never expected to be where I am today. In April, I will have an office and new function to support the NHS and I want to go away and know what I have done makes a difference.

I think the new job will be difficult and challenging, but it is so important to do it well. I understand what it is like to provide care on the frontline. I also understand how difficult it is for staff always to have the confidence and courage to speak out.

In this role, therefore, I will take my current experience, working with individuals and organisations to learn the lessons from reviews and investigations to date.

With the support of the staff who work in the NHS, I have no doubt that we can make the changes together that are needed to deliver a new culture of transparency and openness.

I will work two days a week; it is very important to me that I remain present in my NHS trust. My new appointment has to give credibility to the role, but I also need to be there for staff.

I have always done clinical work even in a general management role – it is very personal to me. I will carry on with spending Fridays on the wards – one week I might walk the wards of St Thomas’, another week work at Guy’s. If someone needs help, I will work alongside them.

Nursing is the best job in the world. No two days are the same. No minute to the next is the same. The vast majority of nurses get out of bed to do the right thing. Sometimes when it doesn’t happen, it is to do with the team.

Nursing may have changed much in terms of skills, but what stands a nurse out from the crowd is to give really good compassionate care focused on the patient. That is what gets me out of bed in the mornings.

I am not driven by status, but I want to make sure what I do matters. If I can do both these roles justice, then I will sleep at night.”

 

Junior doctor claims career was ‘wrecked by lack of protection for whistleblowers’

Evening Standard 22 February 2016    ROSS LYDALL

doc.jpgCourt fight: Dr Chris Day and wife Melissa outside the Employment Appeal Tribunal

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.”

Branded a rapist for daring to be an NHS whistleblower: How brave surgeon sacked for exposing needless deaths was smeared as sex attacker by bosses

By REBECCA HARDY FOR THE DAILY MAIL
12 February 2016

Dr Raj Mattu revealed concerns about patient safety at Walsgrave Hospital
56-year-old went public about overcrowding after the death of two patients
Labelled a sexual pervert and rapist by bosses desperate to quash claims
Racked up £1.4 million bills fighting a trust which will not reinstate him
He has been awarded £1.22m damages but has lost his career as a doctor

A surgeon has revealed he was smeared by NHS bosses and left with his career in ruins after he spoke publicly about dangerous overcrowding at a hospital.
Doctor Raj Mattu, who has been left with a £1.4million legal bill following the dispute, has warned against whistleblowing as he revealed the shocking practices he reported at Walsgrave hospital in Coventry still haven’t been investigated.
In this interview, the 56-year-old describes the ‘terrible’ and ‘humiliating’ experience of being labelled a sexual pervert by bosses desperate to quash his claims as he reveals his life will never be the same.

Doctor Raj Mattu has a blackboard in his loo that says: ‘Now is the time to open some champagne and dance on the table.’
Too true, you might think. For last week, this brilliant cardiologist, who was sacked and vilified by health chiefs for 15 years after exposing shocking NHS failings, won an eye-watering £1.22 million damages in a dramatic victory for free speech.
Finally, it seemed, the once internationally renowned doctor, whose name was dragged through the mud by bosses at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (formerly Walsgrave Hospital), had cause for celebration.

 

Dr Raj Mattu, pictured with his wife Sangita, has revealed how he was smeared by NHS bosses after he publicly revealed he was concerned about patient safety at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry 
Dr Raj Mattu, pictured with his wife Sangeeta, has revealed how he was smeared by NHS bosses after he publicly revealed he was concerned about patient safety at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry
But when we meet at his modest Warwick home, Dr Mattu, 56, is in no mood to pop champagne corks. Neither is his wife Sangeeta, 43. For the career at which Dr Mattu excelled, as a heart clinician and respected academic, is over. He was suspended after speaking out on overcrowding on Walsgrave Hospital wards, which he said led to the death of two patients.
Now, given the trust’s refusal to reinstate him and bring him up to speed on the strides that have been made in his field during his lengthy suspension — a so-called ‘re-skilling’, required by the NHS — an employment tribunal was forced to suggest he take up a post as a science teacher.
Add to this the fact that once he pays the £1.4 million bills he has run up fighting a trust that threw £10 million of taxpayers’ money at the case, he will be £200,000 in debt.
A victory? It is, as he says, a hollow one. ‘Even now the deaths I reported have never been investigated and I’ve been left worse than penniless,’ he says. ‘My career as a doctor is over.
‘If I were able to work in the job I’ve loved since qualifying, I’d roll up my sleeves and work to clear my debts, but I can’t because I’ve been robbed of that opportunity.
‘The Government says it wants to protect whistleblowers, but what they’ve come up with is wholly inadequate. If I’d had children to support would I have put my head above the parapet? I can’t say I would.

The 56-year-old, pictured on his wedding day, went public about overcrowding after the death of two patients at the hospital
The 56-year-old, pictured on his wedding day, went public about overcrowding after the death of two patients at the hospital
‘As things stand, I’d strongly caution anyone against whistleblowing to save them from suffering what my family have had to endure.’
Dr Mattu is not a man given to hyperbole. His chilling words echo the sentiments of a panel of senior doctors who this week condemned NHS treatment of whistleblowers.
In a letter to the Times, Professor Sir Brian Jarman, former head of the British Medical Association, called for reform of whistleblower protection, saying that despite a year passing since the landmark report which ruled whistleblowers would be protected from discrimination, not one healthcare worker sacked for speaking out has been found comparable NHS re-employment.
This appalling state affairs is borne out in Dr Mattu’s case. Before going public in 2001 with his concerns about patient safety at Walsgrave Hospital, Coventry, following two deaths, he had a glittering future ahead of him.
When he was headhunted to work at the hospital in 1997 he was credited with being the first person to report a common mutation in the gene that protects against heart disease and acquired £2.5 million in grants to fund his 12-man research team.
Life, as he says, was good. With his £70,000 salary there were ski holidays, romantic breaks, meals at restaurants, a Mercedes with personalised number-plates, a £600,000 house in Solihull and savings in the bank. Today, he doesn’t have two brass farthings to rub together and is mortgaged to the hilt.
‘This has had a terrible effect on my private life,’ he says. ‘It’s put everything on hold. It’s prevented us from enjoying things we should have enjoyed long ago — marriage [he and Sangeeta eventually wed in 2009], children, the normal activities of life.
Dr Mattu pictured after blowing the whistle on the NHS failures. He was later labelled a pervert and rapist by bosses

Dr Mattu pictured after blowing the whistle on the NHS failures. He was later labelled a pervert and rapist by bosses 

Dr Mattu pictured after blowing the whistle on the NHS failures. He was later labelled a pervert and rapist by bosses.
‘When I was suspended in 2002, Warwick University decided to stop my research, too.’
He can’t keep the tears from his eyes as he says: ‘Without the trust taking me back and reskilling me, I can’t work as a doctor. No other NHS trust is going to pay for that, particularly with all the smears around me.’
Dr Mattu’s lawyer claims he has faced no fewer than 200 absurd and invented allegations levelled by the trust since speaking out, claims that ranged from bullying and fraud to the completely unsubstantiated allegation of rape — all so groundless that, astonishingly, to this day, he has never been shown details about his so-called crimes.
He says the police have dismissed the claims with scorn.
Yet before blowing the whistle he’d never had a whisper of complaint against him since he qualified at University College London in 1984.
‘But then we didn’t have trusts or managers in charge,’ he says. ‘At Walsgrave there were more managers knocking around than doctors.
‘Half the time I couldn’t work out what most of them were meant to be doing. I remember asking for a stapler because my secretary’s had broken and we couldn’t order it. It took them five months to get one.
‘The trust had glorified administrators with grand titles and limited knowledge of healthcare. The director of medical staffing used to be a telephonist when I was a junior doctor and the director of clinical governance — patient safety — used to be a porter.’
Patient safety was Dr Mattu’s greatest concern. A Labour government drive to cut waiting lists, under the Health Secretary Alan Milburn, prompted a management decision to cram five beds into four-bed bays.
Not only was movement around the beds been restricted, but emergency equipment — oxygen, suction, defibrillation — was installed to service only four beds, not a fifth under a window.
It was, says Dr Mattu, ‘a time bomb’. He and fellow consultants voiced concerns on numerous occasions with everyone from his line managers to chief executive David Loughton, but the practice continued.
‘I knew the moment someone became acutely unwell we wouldn’t be able to do anything,’ he says. ‘One morning my worst fear was realised.’
Dr Mattu was on the ward on December 21, 1999, when a cardiac arrest alarm sounded. He hurried to a bay to find a 35-year-old man slipping out of consciousness.
What happened next is so terrible it continues to haunt him.
‘Normally we take off the bed’s head so we can get round the patient to put lines in the blood vessels and a tube in the lungs. But we couldn’t move the bed forwards because it kept hitting the two other beds.
‘At that time he was pink and warm. I was trying to do all the stuff we normally do. Then, he starts going blue in front of my eyes, bleeding in the gut and vomiting. We try to put the heart-tracing machine on, but we’ve got nowhere to plug it. We’re jumping up and down trying to keep this young guy alive. I use a piece of apparatus to expose his airway and, bang, I’m staring at a huge clot. I ask the nurses for suction. I put out my free hand. No suction. Where’s the suction?

Dr Mattu racked up £1.4 million bills fighting the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, which will not reinstate him
Dr Mattu racked up £1.4 million bills fighting the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, which will not reinstate him

Dr Mattu, pictured on his wedding day in the 90sDr Mattu,

Raj Mattu pictured on his wedding day in the 90s

Dr Mattu racked up £1.4 million bills fighting the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, which will not reinstate him
‘The suction tube is a certain length and it’s by another patient’s bed and won’t reach. So then I’m desperately trying to grab the clot with forceps, but they won’t reach.
‘I’m thinking “If I push it down far enough, sacrifice one lung, we can give him oxygen and save him”, but we can’t get the oxygen to him either.
‘I ask a nurse to go to the theatre to get a portable oxygen canister. This guy is now blue and his heart’s stopped. I ask for the defibrillator, but the wires won’t reach.
‘I had to make a decision to wedge the clot down, but we had to wait five minutes before the portable oxygen came, by which time he’s so oxygen-deficient there’s probably very little to retrieve even if we had kept him alive.’ He shakes his head.
Within three weeks there was a second death, again in an over-crowded bay. The management’s response was to put an extension lead on the cardiac arrest trolley.
In February 2000, Health Secretary Alan Milburn boasted to the Commons: ‘The in-patient waiting list is 87,000 below the level we inherited.’
Dr Mattu says: ‘Hospital chief executive David Loughton was oiling the machine for his government paymasters, so Alan Milburn could go on air and say what a wonderful man he was reducing waiting lists. He was railroading every clinician who raised concerns.’
But the concerns were well-founded. In September 2001 a report into the NHS trust by the Commission of Health Improvement (CHI) found it to have a 60 per cent excess death rate, translating into 3,500 unexplained deaths, more than twice as many as those seen during the Mid Staffordshire scandal.
The CHI urged the trust to stop the overcrowding. That evening Loughton appeared on the news to deny any knowledge of patients being harmed as a result of overcrowding.
Short of accusing me of being a terrorist, anything they could think to throw at me they did — rape, sexual assault, fraud, tax evasion.

‘I almost choked on my tea,’ says Dr Mattu. ‘I wrote to the Strategic Health Authority saying: “Will you please intervene.” I heard nothing.’ A week later, the trust received a zero star rating from the Department of Health. The BBC asked Dr Mattu to appear on the News. He spoke about the dangers of overcrowding and the campaign against him began.
Within months he was suspended on a trumped-up charge of bullying a member of his research team in February 2002 and accused of waging a campaign against Loughton.
‘From that moment I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone I worked with. It was so humiliating. Then, when I got home, there was just this emptiness and disbelief,’ he says.
‘I didn’t think in Britain, let alone the NHS, anyone could have the ability to misuse their authority in that way. I felt tearful, but I still had the confidence that he wouldn’t get away with it.
‘I had every faith the people in charge would properly investigate my concerns and see the management were putting people’s lives at risk.
‘But from the moment I whistle-blew the trust seemed determined to trash my reputation. I now realise it’s how they silence a whistleblower.
‘Short of accusing me of being a terrorist, anything they could think to throw at me they did — rape, sexual assault, fraud, tax evasion. I was investigated three times in four years by the Inland Revenue.
‘But the most hurtful allegations were the ones that made me out to be a sexual pervert.
‘I had no idea at the time what was being said about me. The charges were never put to me.
‘It wasn’t until many years later when documents were released to me during litigation that I discovered the trust had held secret meetings with the GMC during which they’d made these unforgivable claims.
‘The GMC began to investigate these allegations though the police.
‘In the end the West Midlands police got so fed up with the GMC inquiries they said: “There are no crime reference numbers, no reports. As far as we’re concerned, there is no incident. Why don’t you simply ask the doctor?” To this day I have not been provided with any details of these fabricated sexual attacks.
‘When I received these documents from the GMC shortly before they decided there was no case against me to answer in 2009, my heart sank. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
‘I thought, “How on earth do I tell Sangeeta?” She was very quiet then she said: “They’re some of the nastiest people I’ve ever come across. Why would they want to destroy you and your reputation in this way?” ’
Dr Mattu remained suspended for five-and-a-half years, one of the longest suspensions in NHS history.
It was finally lifted in July 2007 after he took the trust to the High Court. He eventually started reskilling in London in August 2008.
However, once the GMC closed his file the following March, the trust again looked for ways to get rid of him.
A memo, revealed here for the first time, from the HR director to the chief executive, dated April 23, 2009, shows them weighing up the ‘pros and cons’ of dismissing him.
A tribunal ordered £.122m in damages once it was made clear Dr Mattu would never work again as a doctor. Above, the University Hospital in Coventry, which used to be called the Walsgrave Hospital

A tribunal ordered £.122m in damages once it was made clear Dr Mattu would never work again as a doctor. Above, the University Hospital in Coventry, which used to be called the Walsgrave Hospital

A tribunal ordered £.122m in damages once it was made clear Dr Mattu would never work again as a doctor. Above, the University Hospital in Coventry, which used to be called the Walsgrave Hospital

Damningly, one of the ‘cons’ spells out: ‘Exposes (to no useful purpose?) the failure of previous senior officers at the trust and the Strategic Health Authority.’
Deciding the cons outweighed the pros, the trust withdrew Dr Mattu’s right to retrain in academic work.
‘Because I wouldn’t sign an agreement to withdraw from research re-skilling, they started a disciplinary procedure against me,’ he says.
Such was the pressure on him that his health — he suffers from an autoimmune disease — deteriorated. He spent time in hospital as part of a lung was removed. All the while, the trust bombarded him with up to four letters a day.
‘Then while I’m lying in a bed at the Brompton Hospital they held a disciplinary hearing in my absence and dismissed me,’ he says.
Dr Mattu has not worked or been paid since November 30, 2010. Thankfully, his wife Sangeeta supported him.
‘I am not sure I could have survived this without Sangeeta’s love,’ says Dr Mattu. ‘Lots of women would have walked away years ago and I wouldn’t have blamed them, but she’s been there for me.
‘When I think of all she’s had to sacrifice. She should be a mum . . .’ Again the sentence trails away. Three years ago, the case was heard at an employment tribunal.
Under cross-examination, chief executive David Loughton, who was forced to resign in shame in March 2002, finally admitted he knew about both deaths reported by Dr Mattu.
‘He seemed to be saying that overcrowding was happening because he needed the NHS to give us more money. The tribunal found Mr Loughton was not prepared to look at the options to improve the unacceptable practice in other ways,’ says Dr Mattu, shaking his head in despair.

Dr Mattu only launched the proceedings that drew to a close last week because he hoped to get his job back. The tribunal ordered the damages once it was made clear he would never work again as a doctor.
David Loughton was awarded a CBE by Labour in 2010 for services to health care and earns more than £200,000 as chief executive of the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust.
Four years ago, he suspended whistleblower Sandra Haynes-Kirkbright for alleged bullying after she said the hospital was fiddling death rates.
Earlier this year, internationally acclaimed oncologist Professor David Ferry was cleared of accusations of bullying by the GMC, levelled by Loughton’s Wolverhampton Trust in 2013 after he spoke out about inappropriate care for cancer patients.
Today, Dr Ferry continues his pioneering work in the U.S. — another brilliant doctor lost to British patients. As for Dr Mattu, he can only hope Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will help restore him to the job he dearly loved.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3443311/Branded-rapist-daring-NHS-whistleblower-brave-surgeon-sacked-exposing-needless-deaths-smeared-sex-attacker-bosses.html#ixzz3zwLL9L4J

Health service still victimising whistleblowers

The Times    Chris Smyth Kat Lay Health Editor    February 10 2016
Campaigners say there has been “no evident, meaningful change” in the NHS victimisation of whistleblowers
Campaigners say there has been “no evident, meaningful change” in the NHS victimisation of whistleblowers Getty Images

Not one NHS whistleblower has been given a new job in the health service a year after a government promise to protect staff who expose poor care.

Campaigners say there has been “no evident, meaningful change” in the NHS victimisation of whistleblowers despite promises to end their “truly shocking” treatment.

According to 15 senior figures writing to The Times today, no manager has been disciplined for silencing whistleblowers and hospitals have appointed weak managers to those new posts that are meant to protect staff.

Signatories to the letter include Steve Bolsin, who was driven out of the country after exposing the Bristol heart scandal, Kim Holt, who exposed staff shortages at a clinic which missed the abuse of Baby P, and Julie Bailey, who helped to uncover the Mid Staffs scandal. They say that Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, has failed to persuade NHS bosses to change at a time when the service is focused on a cash crisis.

In a review ordered by Mr Hunt, Sir Robert Francis concluded that staff were deterred from speaking up by a “climate of fear” in the NHS. Sir Robert said “failure to speak up can cost lives” as he urged changes including a scheme to get victimised staff back to work and whistleblowing “guardians” in each hospital. In response, Mr Hunt promised to “call time on bullying and victimisation” in the NHS.

However, today’s letter says a year later “not a single sacked whistleblower has been found comparable re-employment”. Hospitals have appointed internal candidates without the independence to protect whistleblowers to local “guardian” roles, while the national whistleblowing guardian is a tokenistic part-term appointment.

Heart surgeon sacked for whistleblowing could get £11m of taxpayers’ cash with compo claim

The Sun 5 February 2016
Main Image
Ordeal … Dr Mattu SWNS:South West News Service

 

TAXPAYERS could get a £11million bill after an NHS doctor sacked for whistleblowing won his battle for compensation.

Dr Raj Mattu, 54, was awarded £1.22million yesterday after being axed for flagging up high death rates and overcrowding.

And it is thought he may now go after legal costs, believed to be about £10million.

The £70,000-a-year heart surgeon was suspended on full pay over his claims about Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, West Mids, in 2001.

Hospital ... Walsgrave
Hospital … Walsgrave

He was then sacked in 2010 and made a claim for £6.5million at an employment tribunal.

The hearing in Birmingham yesterday told University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust to pay him the huge compensation payout.

Dr Mattu said last night: “The overriding feeling is relief.”

It came after the medic voiced concerns about unusually high death rate for heart bypass ops.

He blamed at least two deaths on cost-cutting measures that saw five patients put into bays set up for four.

The Trust failed to respond so Dr Mattu spoke to the BBC.

He was later suspended for bullying a colleague but the claims were later disproven.

NHS bosses spent about £6million investigating 200 allegations against the doctor and even hired private investigators to track him — but all claims were proved false.

A Trust spokesman said while his award was big, “it is a significant reduction from the original claim”.