The curious tale of the NHS dean, the MP and the whistleblower doctor

Dr Chris Day

This week a mundane employment tribunal hearing revealed an extraordinary tale of subterfuge, cover up and denial in the hidden bureaucracy of the National Health Service.

The hearing was yet another in the long run saga of the case of Dr Chris Day, a plucky young doctor who has taken on the NHS establishment over a very important issue of patient safety and is still in the middle of an eight year battle with the authorities. The legal bill to taxpayers from the NHS to pay for this long battle is now is likely to rise to close to a £1 million.

The story began in August 2013 when Chris Day, a junior doctor initially complained about inadequate staffing. It got worse in January 2014 when he was working overnight in the intensive care unit at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich when two locum doctors failed to show up. He had to cover other wards and A&E and reported his concerns to managers. He saw this as putting patients in such a sensitive area at serious risk.

What followed was not moves to put this right by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Health Education England, which has a responsibility for employing junior doctors, but a state of denial which ended up at the High Court and the Court of Appeal and a long delayed employment tribunal hearing. At one stage Mr Day,a married doctor with a young family, says he had to settle because the NHS threatened him with huge legal bills which could have bankrupted him. Both the HEE and the Trust have publicly denied doing this.

However at a new hearing it turned out that the NHS Trust had withheld crucial documents – which should have been declared in a previous hearing – and he won his case for a fresh hearing which is scheduled to take place next June.

Health Education England ” misled the public, press, MPs and officials”

The grounds for the new hearing is essentially as Dr Day says” that Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Health Education England have objectively misled the public, press, several MPs and public officials on my case and how it settled in 2018. I say this is in order to smear and discredit me and the patient safety issues that I raised.  The Trust have then failed to disclose 18 letters in their Tribunal standard disclosure that their CEO sent to local MPs and public officials with this misleading content in.”

This week’s hearing was centred round the role of Health Education England. This body is reviving a claim – which it conceded last time at the last minute – that it has nothing to do with his case. Its first attempt was to claim it didn’t employ junior doctors. The new attempt at avoiding involvement is to claim that one of the principal figures involved in the case Dr Andrew Frankel is no longer employed by them so HEE now has nothing to do with it.

Dr Day said: “HEE are arguing because this person is now no longer in post as Post Graduate Dean they are no longer responsible for him. They are doing this even though he was clearly in communication with the top of HEE and assisting them with various functions, since leaving his Post Graduate Dean post in 2018. We say he was an agent of HEE and they are still responsible.”

Sir Norman Lamb ” postgraduate knowledge of Whitehall and NHS subterfuge”

What emerged at the hearing centred round an approach to one of Dr Day’s supporters, Sir Norman Lamb. Sir Norman is a former health minister in the coalition and was an MP at the time. He has not held back on his criticism of both the trust and HEE on the way they have treated Dr Day.

Sir Norman has postgrad level of knowledge about the way NHS and Whitehall officials use subterfuge to get their own way. He has hero status in my mind for making sure that an independent panel inquiry into suspicious deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital happened after civil servants used the time he was on a French camping holiday with his family to try and annul his decision by getting another minister to put up a written statement in Parliament saying there would be no inquiry.

He found out and blocked it. As a result a thorough investigation by the panel found that no fewer than 456 elderly people had their lives shortened by overprescribing drugs like diamorphine. and it had been covered up by the health trust. As a former member of that panel I am restricted in what I can say about this but this is now the subject of a big police investigation,

In Dr Day’s case Sir Norman had given an interview to the Sunday Telegraph where he accused the trust and HEE of trying to crush Dr Day for his disclosures.

What this week’s tribunal revealed is that the HEE were profoundly disturbed by his comments because it would damage their reputation with junior doctors.

A cache of emails revealed that HEE was discussing ” behind the scenes ” methods -including contacting the General Medical Council – to redress the balance rather than openly criticising Dr Day.

Professor Wendy Reid, medical director at Health Education England

Professor Wendy Reid, medical director of HEE, admitted this was the case but said no action was subsequently taken. But she did correspond with Dr Andrew Frankel suggesting if she was going to meet Sir Norman he ” could give her a tutorial”.

What happened instead was that Dr Andrew Frankel, now a former postgraduate dean at HEE, told the tribunal that he decided off his own bat to approach Sir Norman by asking to meet him and sent him an 11 page document to refute the criticism. Dr Frankel insisted that he had not told anybody that he was doing this, even though he obtained material for his document from the HEE. He admitted that he had acted stupidly in getting personal details about Dr Day from HEE for his report as he knew they would refuse him as an ex employee.

Instead he tried to make out that he was being helpful to Dr Day by discussing this with Sir Norman. When this was put to Dr Day in cross examination by Mr Dijen Basu, QC for HEE, Dr Day flatly denied it.

In extraordinary evidence Dr Frankel insisted he had no role to play that would bring him in contact with HEE though later it was disclosed that in his new job at Imperial College Hospital Health Trust some of his work would bring him into contact with them.

Professor Reid told the tribunal she had been ” flabbergasted and staggered” about what Dr Frankel had done, insisting she knew nothing about the meeting.

But when HEE did find out it remained silent about what happened knowing that the document was favourable to their case. As Andrew Allen, QC for Dr Day said in his summing up:. The document “is repeatedly expressed in a way that presents the report as an HEE position rather than an individual view from Dr Frankel.” Nor did HEE take any action to disavow Dr Frankel when Sir Norman informed them he had received a document from Dr Frankel three months later.

He also said Dr Frankel contradicted himself. He claimed “encyclopaedic knowledge on the case’ but on the other hand he repeatedly said in oral evidence that his knowledge was only about him and his team and the actions they took between June and December 2014.

Even the lawyer for HEE Mr Basu described Dr Frankel’s position as ” devious”.

The tribunal will decide next month. If HEE wins the organisation will no longer be part of Dr Day’s case. If it loses its role will be part of the June hearing.

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11 thoughts on “The curious tale of the NHS dean, the MP and the whistleblower doctor

  1. I worked in the Office of the Chief Social Worker at the time of Norman Lamb. Then Jeremy Hunt. Norman Lamb retains my admiration for his integrity. He persisted despite the brickbats. Like you, David. ❤️. Thankyou.


    • Well done. Good story. Did you mean you were personally on the Independent Gosport Inquiry Panel? I have experienced the sheer obdurate, inefficient, delaying, dissembling tactics and nature of complaining to the NHS as a patient. Goodness knows what it must have been like for this doctor.


  2. Another brave soul who has totally destroyed his career, whatever happens next….but i betya for this guy there is at least a thousand who have totally had their lives destroyed….


  3. 1 Detective doing the work of 2.5 detectives for TWO years = nervous breakdown. Point is the NHS does not have exclusivity on working their staff to oblivion.
    How many more Doctors, Nurses & Police did you say you have added Boris?


  4. The only issue I have with this article is you describe the events as an extraordinary tale David. Sadly that is not the case. There are many extraordinary people working in the NHS for the benefit of patients. Unfortunately, in the higher echelons of the organisation and in organisations charged with investigating complaints, there are individuals who see their role differently – that of cover up and denial.

    The problem is these people, many on very high salaries, mistakenly think they are actually doing good. What this article indicates is there is not one universal NHS. In the meantime, the taxpayer supports the process of systemic denial in the NHS. This doctor has paid a high price for speaking truth to power which then turns a blind eye rather than do something about patient safety


  5. I think these cost threats are evil. What can be done to make the law accessible to all citizens. What is particularly galling is that the cost threats were made by people using the tax payers money to pay for their lawyers, or by lawyers paid essentially from the public purse. How can the law be so awkward, so cumbersome, that it takes over eight years to address a failure of management whilst allowing all sorts of chicanery, lies and deception, whilst an honest doctor, a good doctor fights for his professional life. I liked the blog. I think that most people will assume that barristers and solicitors know what they are doing, even if what they are doing is making a farce out of the principles of Law by using technicalities. However, having observed the yawning gulf between principles and practice in the Legal profession I see some actions that are bizarre but they are not challenged. The Law is a self regulating profession that does not self regulate. Like Medicine, unfortunately. That needs to change. Dr Frankel should not be allowed to go rogue without some heavy sanctions and Professor Wendy Reid needs to go on some compulsory ethics training.


  6. Pingback: Health Education England wins case against Dr Chris Day with the help of a “deceitful” former postgraduate student dean | Westminster Confidential

  7. Pingback: Jeremy Hunt and Sir Norman Lamb back whistleblower doctor’s epic patient safety struggle at a tribunal from Monday | Westminster Confidential

  8. Pingback: Sir Norman Lamb blows the whistle on “deceitful” NHS attempts to discredit Dr Chris Day in tribunal hearing evidence | Westminster Confidential

  9. Chris Day is the bravest of the brave. He was right to do what he did. Worried about patient safety and we are taught “Patient safety first”
    Great that you are reporting on this. Not for one moment did they understand the strength behind this young man. Too clever for them all!!
    Well done David xx


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