A preliminary two day employment tribunal hearing has led to fresh revelations about the national role of one of the NHS’s top law firms, Hill Dickinson, that acted for Health Education England against whistleblower junior doctor, Dr Chris Day, in a case that has now been ongoing for 8 years and was also against the South London Trust Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
Day alleges Hill Dickinson failed to disclose over 200 commissioning contracts between Health Education England and NHS Trusts around England including a contract with Lewisham and Greenwich NHS. The significance is that these contacts proved Health Education England’s status as a second employer of junior doctors.
This is something that Health Education England and Hill Dickinson spent 4 years denying, between 2014 and 2018, at huge expense to the taxpayer in order to argue junior doctors out of whistleblowing protection.
This was in order to stop Dr Chris Day’s case ever being heard. The Tribunal were told that not one of these contracts was disclosed in the litigation and were obtained in 2019 by a freelance journalist, Tommy Greene who was writing about the case in the Telegraph. The scandalous focus of the hearing was that Hill Dickinson profited from not disclosing the contracts in litigation arguing that it was fanciful for Day to assert HEE as an employer of doctors.
The Judge was told that Tommy Greene had also found that Hill Dickinson were paid handsomely to draft the very contracts that were not disclosed most notably the one between HEE and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
The Judge was referred to a complaint to the legal regulator from Sir Norman Lamb and Tommy Greene that set these details out.
And a debate in Parliament where the 2 MPs Justin Madders and Sir Norman Lamb further explored the matter;
Justin Madders stated;
“Health Education England effectively sought to remove around 54,000 doctors from whistleblowing protection by claiming that it was not their employer.”
Sir Norman Lamb stated;
“Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the contract between Health Education England and the trusts, which demonstrates the degree of control that Health Education England has over the employment of junior doctors, was not disclosed for some three years in that litigation? It was drafted by the very law firm that was making loads of money out of defending the case against Chris Day. I have raised this with Health Education England, but it will not give me a proper response because it says that the case is at an end. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that this is totally unacceptable and that it smacks of unethical behaviour for that law firm to make money out of not disclosing a contract that it itself drafted?”
Dr Day has fought an eight year battle with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and Health Education England over protected disclosures about patient safety in the intensive care unit at Woolwich Hospital which associated with two avoidable deaths.
He recently lost a case against the trust despite it being revealed that hundreds of emails and documents had been withheld from him including notes of a crucial trust broad meeting which discussed and decided the fate of his case. Some 50,000 emails involving his case were also destroyed by a senior trust official, David Cocke, during the hearing. He was also due to be a witness in the case but never gave any.
This new hearing has been brought by Dr Day over ” wasted costs” in an earlier hearing after he was pressed to agree to a settlement with the trust which exonerated the NHS or face huge costs which would have lost him his family home.
Day was arguing that had he known the truth he would not have agreed to three separate compromise agreements made with the NHS, one of which protected all lawyers in the litigation from wasted costs stemming from misconduct and another that paid Day a £55k contribution of his legal costs which was only a fraction of what he spent resisting the false arguments in this case on HEE’s employer status.
At this hearing Day asserted that the settlements should be set aside after new information came to light following a freedom of information disclosure to investigative journalist Tommy Greene. The Judge at the hearing was also taken to references made by Tommy Greene and Sir Norman Lamb to fraud and other offences based on a legal opinion that had been instructed by Tommy Greene.
In this hearing the Judge only had to decide whether Day’s wasted cost claim against Hill Dickinson was strong enough to progress to a full hearing where Hill Dickinson would be subject to a disclosure order for all relevant documents and emails relevant to this dispute. Hill Dickinson argue the settlement agreements should prevent the case progressing to full hearing.
The hearing revealed that Hill Dickinson were paid to re-draft contractual agreements for 200 other trusts as well as Lewisham and Greenwich. The contract with highest values was revealed as £79m. As Andrew Allen argued: “The LDA disclosed nearly three years after the 2015 strike out hearing,(an outdated LDA not drafted by Hill Dickinson), showed that the 2nd Respondent[ Health Education England] was responsible for substantial terms under which the Claimant”. This was a position that had been plainly denied on multiple occasions in several courts. Andrew Allen KC continued;
” The entire basis for the strike out application had been false. The argument run by the 2nd Respondent that it was ‘fanciful’ to suggest that the party which substantially determined the terms and conditions of the Claimant’s engagement was or could have been the Respondent was completely wrong.”
Extraordinarily Hill Dickinson claim that the lawyers representing Health Education England in the case did not know about the new agreement and even other lawyers working for Hill Dickinson didn’t know about it.
Andrew Allen KC said: “Had the Claimant known then what he knows now, he would not have entered into an agreement which could stop him applying for costs against Hill Dickinson. It is in the interests of justice to permit the Claimant to progress this application.
Mr Angus Moon KC for the Health Education England argued that the non disclosure of the document was not relevant to Dr Day’s whistleblowing case. made no material difference to his case, and to throw out the agreement would break the finality of all agreements reached in courts. He also warned the press and the public reporting and observing the case that any reference to Hill Dickinson should not suggest that they had done anything wrong. He wanted Dr Day’s application struck out while Mr Andrew Allen, KC made it clear that this should not happen as the preliminary hearing could not investigate nor discuss the actions of Hill Dickinson without a full hearing at the tribunal.
See also a comprehensive account by Dr Chris Day at https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/junior-doctors-whistleblowing-protection He has a recent post on Linked In putting everything into context here.
Background note: Hill Dickinson is a 212 year old law firm, founded in Liverpool and now a big international firm. Its famous cases included acting for the White Star line, owners of the Titanic when it faced claims in the US courts after it sunk and for Cunard, owners of the Lusitania torpedoed by a German U boat in 2015. It also employed one of the first women to become a solicitor, Edith Berthen, in 1927.
|Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow me to continue my forensic reporting
Please donate to Westminster Confidential