Fresh revelations on the national role of top NHS law firm disclosed in the latest hearing in the long running Dr. Chris Day whistleblower case

Dr Chris Day

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.

Tommy Greene freelance investigative journalist Pic credit: Twitter

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.

 SRA Complaints Sir Norman Lamb (54000doctors.org)

And a debate in Parliament where the 2 MPs Justin Madders and Sir Norman Lamb further explored the matter;

Sir Norman Lamb

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.

SRA Complaints Sir Norman Lamb (54000doctors.org)

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.

Andrew Allen KC

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.

Angus Moon KC pic credit: Sergeants’ Inn Chambers

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.

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Parliamentary Ombudsman’s plea to MPs to summon the DWP and the Environment Agency for failing to compensate people

Amanda Amroliwala chief executive of the PHSO

Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has asked the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) to intervene on his behalf and summon the heads of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Environment Agency to appear before them to explain why they are ignoring his findings and refusing to compensate people.

The plea came during a hearing of the committee last week to examine the organisation’s progress and future plans to handle complaints. The committee also heard how the Ombudsman was hamstrung by the failure of the Cabinet Office to pass new legislation to give him greater powers and the latest progress in the 50swomen maladministration claim. More about this below. All these issues highlight weaknesses I have raised in previous blogs.

The DWP case involves 118,000 disabled people who suffered from years of benefit maladminstration . I wrote about this in August- see here. The complaint came from Ms U – via the London borough of Greenwich welfare rights office- who was put in the wrong lower category of the employment support allowance despite being in very poor physical and mental health with little or no savings The Ombudsman ordered the Department to pay her £7500 compensation and five years of arrears totalling £19,832.55 plus interest.

A National Audit Office investigation found that 118,000 people were in the same boat and should have been compensated alongside her following the Ombudsman’s ruling. But the DWP decided only to pay her and ignored everyone else. The pay out would have run to millions of pounds and the DWP decided it would ignore the Ombudsman because legally they can.

The second case involves one family but it is one of the most egregious cases I have heard in Whitehall. The case has been going on for 12 years and involves admitted maladministration by the Environment Agency over the issue of a water licence for a micro hydro project in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. The Earl family who renovated a tumbledown watermill to use for the scheme was supposed to receive substantial compensation decided by an independent assessor appointed by the Environment Agency. who bungled their case. The money owing could amount to £3m as interest has piled up and the EA has refused to follow through the Ombudsman’s finding for years.

John McDonnell MP

MPs also raised the issue of the Ombudsman’s lack of powers. John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor and a Labour member of the committee, has tabled a question to the Cabinet Office asking why they have not introduced legislation to do this. The issue is raised in an earlier blog here.

Mr McDonnell asked Robert Behrens:”Can you explain the practical implications of the Government’s lack of support for legislative reform? How does that hold you back from adhering to the Venice principles, which the Government have signed up to ?”

He told him: “Two of my counterparts have the power of own-initiative investigation. In cases like Windrush, the maternity scandal in hospitals or the issues with mental health, we could go out and look at an issue without it being complained about. We could resolve that issue before it went to a long-standing independent or public inquiry. The peer review panel said that other ombudsman schemes in Europe use that and have used it in Covid to good effect.”

He went on: “If you have 16 public service ombudsmen in the United Kingdom, it means that people do not know where to go. It means the profile of my office and other offices is lower than it would otherwise be. That is not satisfactory in terms of being the only organisation in the public service that provides redress free of charge to citizens. That is very important.”

He added that he saw no reason why a government could not introduce a bill to do all this straight after the next general election.

MPs Question chief executive on 50swomen pension investigation

Amanda Amroliwala, chief executive of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, was closely questioned by three MPs, Ronnie Cowan, SNP, John McDonnell and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, both Labour, on the maladministration complaints over the delay in paying 3.6 million 1950s born women.

On Stage 2 of the report, which has already been leaked on this website see here, she said: “We have not
finalised that stage of the report yet. We are in the process of receiving and analysing the very extensive comments that we have had from the Department and from the complainants who have brought the complaints to us”

RONNIE Cowan, SNP MP for Inverclyde

Under further questioning she added: “We are looking at how those will need to change the
provisional views that are not yet public but that some individuals have had sight of. We will do that as soon as possible.” She would not commit a date for this report and the proposed remedy will be published except ” hopefully” between January and March next year. She was also quizzed on the level of compensation. Ronnie Cowan pointed out it could be anything from nothing to £10,000 but if it was maladministration only the top level was much less than £10,000 .She would not be drawn on how much this is likely to be.

John McDonnell reflected the frustration among MPs about the long delay in the Ombudsman producing a final report. “You can understand the scale of interest and concern there is amongst Members of Parliament. You will have seen that from the early-day motions. There is not an MP without a constituent who has been affected. The concern that people have is because of the age of many of our constituents. Some of them have already passed away. Others may not be here to receive any form of redress, if we delay beyond the next quarter of next year.”

There is another elephant in the room that was not discussed. If the DWP is refusing to pay 118,000 benefit claimants their compensation, why should they pay any of the 3.6 million 50swomen a penny beyond the six test cases who complained?

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Updated Direct Discrimination: Former Judge Jocelynne Scutt’s verdict on the 50swomen pension delay

Here is the entire speech by Jocelynne Scutt to MPs in Parliament this week. This explains the logic of her argument.

The full speech from Jocelynne Scutt to MPs

Some 3.8 million women suffered direct discrimination by the Tory government’s decision in 1995 to raise the pension age, of women to 65 and then 66, MPs and peers will be told at a briefing in Parliament today.

This is the main finding of a big report by Jocelynne Scutt, a former Australian judge who served on the Fiji bench and was Tasmania’s first Anti Discrimination Commissioner. She now teaches law at the University of Buckingham and is a member of both the Australian Labor Party and the British Labour Party and is a Labour councillor in Cambridge.

Her report followed a hearing by the CEDAWinLAW People’s Tribunal last July which specifically looked into the plight of 50sborn women where some of the women and Dr Elgun Safarov, vice chair of the UN Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls (CEDAW) from Geneva, gave evidence. The UN committee is currently challenging the UK government to explain its failure to write the convention into UK law some 36 years after Margaret Thatcher ratified it.

The ruling in the report to be published in due course is much tougher than the case put forward by two members of BackTo60 in the court hearings following the judicial review. Then lawyers argued that the women had suffered indirect discrimination as their opportunities to pay contributions into the National Insurance fund, among other issues, to qualify for a full pension were not equal with men.

Jocelynne Scutt argues that this was not indirect discrimination but direct discrimination of a specific group of women who had been singled out to wait for their pension while everyone else was unaffected. It has also to be taken into account that 9.8 million men over 60 who decided not to claim unemployment benefit were given free auto-credits which ensured that nearly all got a full pension for life. It was going to be offered to women until 2018 but that idea was swiftly scrapped.

Every one of these women – many who have worked since the age of 15 as well as bringing up a family- was promised by the government when they started work that they could retire at 60 and planned to do so. And given the Department for Work and Pensions told the courts that it was not obliged under the 1995 Act to tell them personally this had changed – this only came in when men were affected by a rise in their retirement age.

Jocelynne Scutt has already delivered the report to Rishi Sunak at Downing Street. She argues that 50s women were treated unfavourably from the start. The 1995 decision did not affect any women born in the 1940s, targeted the 1950s women while those born in 1960s and 1970s onwards had much longer to adjust. The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report agrees there was partial maladministration in that 50s women were not properly informed. In fact hardly anyone was properly informed until it all changed with men and women facing a rise in their pension age to 66.

Full restitution must be honoured – Jocelynne Scutt

Jocelynne Scutt says “Government and Parliament have a responsibility to face up to and acknowledge the grave wrong done. There is no room for obfuscation or quibbling. Historical discrimination requires relief. There is a moral imperative to right this wrong. The law is on the side of the 1950s-born women. 1950sborn women alone are the group targeted. This is a debt of law and honour. Full restitution is the only proper legal, ethical and moral outcome. Full restitution must be honoured.

The briefing is in the House of Commons at 2.0pm today.

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How the Tories keep our Parliamentary Ombudsman powerless – while telling the rest of the world they back the highest standards

Rob Behrens Parliamentary Ombudsman

A high powered peer review of the Parliamentary Ombudsman has exposed the hypocrisy and double standards of the present UK government towards people having the right to redress from bad and unfair public and NHS treatment.

The report released from an international panel of Ombudsmen , an academic and a UK housing ombudsman concludes with a polite but damning assessment of the failure of the government to keep its word to strengthen the Ombudsman’s powers. Members of the panel included both the Greek and Israeli Ombudsmen and a respected academic, Professor Robert Thomas, Professor of Public Law, University of Manchester.

The UK is a member of the Council of Europe Venice Commission which lays down what are known as the ” Venice Principles” – an international standard to guarantee the independence of the Ombudsman and the human rights of people to have direct access to the Ombudsman to make complaints about their treatment by public services.

The UK then co-sponsored a UN resolution incorporating these standards for the entire world – telling every country that Britain was in the lead on this issue.

But then under successive Tory governments of Boris Johnson, Elizabeth Truss and Rishi Sunak nothing has not only been done but ministers have taken active steps to thwart reform.

The most obvious example is Michael Gove, who used his power in the Cabinet Office, to block any bill-even a draft bill- coming before Parliament to the despair of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (Pacac) which under a Tory MP wanted this to happen.

The situation is remarkably similar to the government’s attitude towards the UN Convention on the elimination of all discrimination against women and girls (CEDAW) which Margaret Thatcher ratified in 1986 and had still not been properly implemented 40 years on . This is now the subject of a review from the convention in Geneva which criticises the UK for not implementing it properly and is demanding answers.

The conclusions of the peer review couldn’t be clearer:

Professor Rob Thomas Pic credit: Administrative Justice Council

“The ‘Venice Principles’ lay down a set of international standards and principles on the protection and promotion of Ombudsman institutions. These have been accepted by the UK, as a member of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in 2019. They were also adopted by the UN in a motion co-sponsored by the UK Government in 2020.

” In several respects, PHSO’s legal framework complies with the ‘Venice Principles’, but not in other respects. PHSO’s statutory framework is now out of date and widely seen as being unnecessarily restrictive. PHSO is also out of line with other UK Ombudsman offices, which possess powers that PHSO does not.
“This means that citizens in some parts of the UK do not have the same rights as others. We are aware that reform of the Ombudsman is a long standing and unresolved issue, although it has become an increasingly urgent matter which makes the work of PHSO more difficult. PHSO is doing everything it can reasonably do to make the argument for reform. What is required is action from the UK Government and Parliament. Any reform must maintain PHSO’s direct reporting line into Parliament to preserve its absolute independence from Government.

Andreas Pottakis, Greek Ombudsman and President the International Ombudsman Institute -Europe

The report backs this up with a traffic light (red, amber, green) system of points where it measures the consistency and performance of the Ombudsman with the Venice principles.. Nearly all the red and amber points are caused by the failure of the government to legislate to strengthen the Ombudsman.

The government does not meet the principle that “Any individual or legal person, including NGOs, shall have the right to free, unhindered and free of charge access to the Ombudsman, and to file a complaint.” Instead a complaint has to be filtered by an MP or in the case of the NHS there has to be a “safe space” for administrators to look at the complaint before the Ombudsman can act.

There is no legal provision to protect whistleblowers who contact him. He, unlike his Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Ombudsmen cannot initiate investigations. It is not clear whether he has full powers to force people to respond to him and certainly his recommendations don’t have to be followed by the government if he finds maladministration. There is not proper protection for his position by law and even the recruitment of a successor is limited, so not all people can apply.

Venice Principles give Ombudsman right to recommend changes to the law

The Venice Principles give him the right ” to have the power to present, in public, recommendations to Parliament or the Executive, including to amend legislation or to adopt new legislation” and this is definitely not allowed in England – otherwise he could go further on the case of the 50swomen who lost their pensions for up to six years.

Now you might think the Ombudsman would make a great deal out of this report to press the government to expand his powers or show up ministers for failing to keep their obligations to an international agreement they signed.

But the heading on his website is “World’s first official international ombudsman review finds UK service is robust and good value “. Yes the report does make good points about improvements in the running of the Ombudsman’s |Office but its fundamental objection is given muted coverage – buried down in the copy.

Further down the press release Rob Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, says: “The peer review rightly says that the UK is out-of-step with other modern Ombudsman services in terms of our statutory framework. Without powers of own initiative, I am hamstrung from investigating many systemic issues that no one is looking at. Legislative reform of the UK Ombudsman service would mean fewer barriers to justice and more opportunities to prevent injustice happening in the future.”

I think a more gutsy Ombudsman would fight his corner better -particularly as this government is on the back foot when it comes to defending decent public services and upholding standards in public life.

A more cynical explanation is that the government don’t want the public to have greater rights to complain as they are fearful of more bad administration and scandals coming to light But they want the rest of the world to think Britain is a beacon of good government in this area -knowing this is a lie.

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Andreas I. Pottakis

Tribunal of the Absurd: My Verdict on the Dr Chris Day whistleblower case

Dr Chris Day

An employment tribunal under Judge Anne Martin has thrown out whistleblower Dr Chris Day’s claims against the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust after an eight year battle about patient safety at the intensive care unit in Woolwich Hospital.

In a bizarre ruling the judge has managed to discredit the evidence of Dr Day’s witnesses, including the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt and two very senior medical experts.

She glossed over the disclosure of the deliberate destruction of 90,000 emails by the NHS Trust, which should have been provided as more evidence of what happened during the eight year long dispute.

She played down false evidence given under oath from the trust’s chief executive, Ben Travis, that there was no record of a board meeting which discussed his case and approved the settlement when a note of the meeting came to light. Evidence here.

She is remarkably sympathetic to David Cocke, the associate director of communications at the trust destroying the 90,000 emails, which is a criminal offence, and accepted the excuses of the NHS Trust to avoid him attending the court where he would be cross examined.

Jeremy Hunt; Official Portrait

She did have the opportunity to strike out the trust’s defence midway through the hearing when it became clear that large volumes of potential evidence had been withheld and destroyed but decided there was enough evidence to continue the case. Now with this judgement we know why – perhaps she didn’t want to hear anything else that would prevent her finding for the trust.

Despite a long rambling 67 page judgement Judge Martin’s findings are as notable for what they omit as much as what they disclose and seems to cast doubt in one instance on the integrity of Dr Day while accepting at face value anything put forward by the trust.

Sir Norman Lamb

Dr Day was backed by two prominent politicians Jeremy Hunt and Sir Norman Lamb, a former health minister. Early in the judgement she disposes of Jeremy Hunt’s evidence by saying ” it relates to what he was told by the Claimant about the protected disclosures he had made. It does not refer to the
statements made by the Respondent which are the subject of this hearing. The Tribunal does not understand why his witness statement was put forward.”

This odd statement by the judge seems to suggest that Dr Chris Day told Jeremy Hunt t what to say – which I find hard to believe. I think Jeremy Hunt can make up his own mind and wouldn’t have given that statement if he hadn’t thought something was wrong. Sir Norman Lamb who was very vocal about the trust’s failings in treating Dr Chris Day – enough to want an inquiry – is said by the judge to have been treated ” fairly” by the trust.

Dr Megan Smith

The two medical witnesses Dr Megan Smith and Dr Sebastian Hormaeche were also dismissed as biased because they were supporters of Dr Chris Day’s whistleblowing activity. In fact Dr Day has never met Dr Megan Smith. She effectively demolished the case provided by the trust’s ” independent” consultant Roddis Associates, that staffing levels at the intensive care unit were adequate by quoting the national guidelines. She told the hearing;“You would not find an anaesthetist or ICU doctor in the country who would accept those ratios. There was a clear and present danger to patient safety – no question about that.”

Yet this fact- it is fact not a campaigning point by Dr Day – is ignored completely.

She said: “I have been a member of my hospital’s Serious Incident Review Panel and am currently the mortality lead for the department of anaesthesia with responsibility for investigating any patient deaths. I am also a practising barristerand I carry out expert witness work (primarily in the field of clinical negligence) for”. She linked Dr Day’s safety concerns at the ICU to the two deaths there.

When it comes to the treatment of Mr Cocke the judge almost turns somersaults to protect his activity. The passage where she describes him shows up her unconscious prejudice in favour of the trust.

“It was Mr Cocke who opened this can of worms. It was he who contacted Dr Harding [one of the doctors that Dr Day raised the issue of the icu) and he who forwarded the emails provided by Dr Harding to the Claimant. He has been open about deleting the documents.

” It was not a situation where he owned up only because he had been found out. This does not strike the Tribunal as the actions of someone who is mindset on concealing documents and lends some credence to his explanation.””

And on his non appearance:”The Tribunal’s view at that time was that considering the medical evidence from Mr Cocke’s GP there was no medical reason Mr Cocke could not give evidence and if he did not give evidence then this was a decision of the Respondent.
Further medical information was then obtained which said that Mr Cocke was too unwell to attend to give evidence. Mr Cocke did not give evidence. On balance the Tribunal is satisfied that Mr Cocke was unfit to give evidence.
“Whilst the members of this Tribunal are not medically trained, it appeared that the apparent contradictions raised by the Claimant were indicative of a progressing mental health issue and this taken together with the irrational act of deleting emails points to Mr Cocke being quite unwell especially as it was he who first provided extra documents that had not been disclosed. We do not doubt that Mr Cocke is ill, but accept that there is no independent medical information explaining the nature of his illness and how it manifests.”

First of all it remarkably prejudicial for a judge to describe the unearthing of documents that should have been provided four years ago in discovery as “a can of worms” and secondly it is remarkable for a judge to decide to excuse a criminal act as a mental health problem. That seems a job for a psychiatrist not a judge who admits she has no medical expertise.

Harold Pinter: Pic Credit: National Portrait Gallery

Pulling this altogether this hearing would make a splendid play for the Theatre of the Absurd – it reads a bit like a plot by Harold Pinter than a serious contribution to judicial case law..

I hope some playwright considers putting together a play or TV drama on Dr Day’s epic eight year struggle for justice for patient safety. It should be dedicated to the two people who unfortunately died at Woolwich Hospital ICU and whom the trust prefers to forget.

I can’t imagine a more fitting place for Judge Anne Martin, Ben Travis and David Cocke to appear than a hard hitting and satirical play at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Note: Dr Day is currently raising cash for a further hearing next month in connection with this case and the involvement of the Health Education England – the link is
https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/junior-doctors-whistleblowing-protection/

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Delivered to Downing Street: Jocelynne Scutt’s tribunal report on the horrors facing #50swomen who faced delayed pensions

Jocelynne Scutt, president of the Convention for Ending all Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Tribunal, yesterday delivered her report on the plight of 50s born women to Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister, at Downing Street.

The report, to be officially published at the end of this month, is the latest move to press for full restitution for the women who had to wait 6 years to get their pension. It is timely reminder to the government which is about implement big tax rises and spending cuts that this issue will not go away for the 3.6 million people who lost out.

Jocelynne Scutt, President of the CEDAW Tribunal; Janet Chapman, Ian Byrne’s Parliamentary Assistant, and Ian Byrne, Labour MP for Liverpool, West Derby, who tabled a Parliamentary motion call for full restitution, pictured outside Parliament

Jocelynne Scutt gave a speech outlining the main issues and Ian Byrne wholeheartedly backing the campaign. See it on a video here.

Ian Byrne’s Parliamentary motion now has 75 signatures from MPs. The latest MPs to sign include more Labour MPs such as Qureshi Yasmin, Bolton, South East; Karl Turner, Kingston-upon-Hull, East: Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Central; and Khalid Mahmood, Birmingham, Perry Barr and Clive Betts, Sheffield South East.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesperson, Wera Hobhouse and MP for Bath is the first member of the party to sign.

The issue is very popular in Northern Ireland with all MPs in the Democratic Unionist Party signing plus a member from Social Democrat Labour Party and the Alliance. Eight MPs from Scottish National Party have signed and two from Alba Party. There are also a number of ex Labour MPs now Independents have signed, the latest being Dr Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and South Acton.

It is noticeable that not a single Conservative MP has signed the new motion though many signed the motion in the last Parliament calling for full restitution.

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Scandal of the Ministry of Justice’s £200 million plan to imprison more women while providing a tenth of the cash to keep them out of jail

Foston Hall women’s prison. Pic credit: BBC

As the UK faces public spending cuts the Ministry of Justice is embarking on a £200 million plan to expand the women prison population by building 500 new places for women.

The scheme has been condemned by charities from the Prison Reform Trust, the Howard League for Penal Reform to Women in Prison and was subject to a highly critical report from MPs on the Commons Justice Committee.

This weekend a report from Women in Prison provided a cost funded case to turn this spending plan on its head by funding women’s centres instead to keep women out of jail and save the NHS, local authorities and the police a shed load of public money in picking up the pieces after prison life.

If you don’t believe this you should read last year’s Chief Inspector of Prisons report on Foston Hall, near Uttoxeter, Derbyshire, the worst women’s prison in the country. housing around 272 women prisoners.

1750 cases of self harm in one year at Foston Hall prison

An unannounced visit found that in one year there were 1750 cases of self harm by the women inmates and a staggering 1000 calls to the Samaritans each month. Two women had killed themselves there since 2019. Other statistics revealed that 20 per cent of the women were released into the community with nowhere to live – adding to the homelessness problem. The prison couldn’t even get people to work there – it had a supposed full staff complement of 110 but only 62 were deployable at any one time. As a result there was a high level of violence and lot of women were segregated.

The report said: “The prison had no strategy to reduce self-harm or improve the care for those in crisis. Recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman following their investigation into deaths in custody had still to be addressed and the relatively few women who accounted for most of the
incidents did not have meaningful care plans. The response to women in crisis was too reactive, uncaring and often punitive.”

Contrast this with a plan put forward by the new Women in Prison report. It follows one of the last acts of the Johnson government to allocate £24m – compared to £200m for new prison places – to develop women’s centres as an alternative to prison.

Women in Prison point out that just one centre “receiving £1m in a given year can support over 650 women and generate £2.75m in public sector savings, while providing a lifeline for vital services and significantly improving wellbeing for women and their children. The savings would go to local authorities (47%), the Ministry of Justice (17%), the NHS (15%), the Police (10%), the Department for Work and Pensions (9%) and HM Revenue and Customs (2%).”

Instead nearly half of Women’s Centres surveyed said they are concerned about their survival because the £24m is being parcelled out in short term funding spread across the country. Once the money runs out centres face closure.

Anawin Women’s Centre pic credit: Anawin

Joy Doal, Chief Executive of Anawim Women’s Centre in Birmingham said: “We are struggling. The needs of the women we work with are becoming more complex. We are witnessing the fallout from  Covid-19 – which is driving mental health problems – and an alarming number of women driven into poverty due to rising bills. On top of that our own costs are skyrocketing due to inflation and the rise in living costs. Now more than ever, we need sustainable, long-term funding to ensure we can continue meeting the ever growing needs of the women we work with.”

To me this seems just one more example of the lack of joined up thinking in Whitehall. The Women in Prison charity have done a great job not only in highlighting what is going wrong but in providing a fully costed solution that ought to be sent to the Treasury post haste. One example of a woman ending up in prison because they have mental health problems was covered on my blog earlier this year. See it here.

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That confidential Ombudsman’s report on 50swomen pensions summary in full: For the benefit of all WASPI members

Rob Behrens, Parliamentary Ombudsman

My reporting and coverage of the confidential provisional Parliamentary Ombudsman’s Report into the maladministration has caused considerable controversy particularly among the people at the top of Waspi. People who follow me on Backto60 have been very grateful for keeping them informed. People on Waspi have objected to me publishing it at all and have kept their members in the dark about its contents. Robert Behrens, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, is constrained by law from publishing it while his investigation continues. People at the top of Waspi have accused me of only publishing snippets which undermine Waspi’s case.

To dispel any doubts here is the full summary of his findings (the report is 298 paragraphs long) – though there is a link in a comment on my previous blog to the full report in the comments section. You can see the Ombudsman makes it clear that maladministration over a 28 month period ” caused complainants unnecessary stress and anxiety and meant an opportunity to lessen their distress was lost.  For some complainants, it also caused unnecessary worry and confusion.” But it rejects that ” this maladministration led to the financial losses complainants claim.”

In other words it has no intention of compensating people who have lost up to £50,000 through the changes or anywhere near this. Need I say more. Here is the summary.

Provisional views

Reference: SPA (stage 2) Complained about:           Department for Work and Pensions                           Independent Case Examiner

The issues we are considering and our provisional views

  1. In July 2021 we issued the report for stage one of our investigation into complaints about the adequacy of DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age, and associated issues.  We found that maladministration led to a delay in DWP writing directly to women about changes to their State Pension age. 
  • We are now working on stage two of our investigation.  This stage is considering complaints about:
  • DWP’s communication of changes to the number of qualifying years National Insurance contributions required for a full State Pension
    • DWP’s complaint handling
    • the Independent Case Examiner’s (ICE’s) handling of complaints about DWP’s communication of State Pension age changes.  
  • It is also considering the impact of any failings by DWP and ICE, including the injustice arising from the maladministration identified during stage one of our investigation.   
  • This document sets out:
  • a summary of our provisional views
    • the evidence we are considering
    • our analysis so far of DWP’s communication of changes to National

Insurance qualifying years, including o background 

  • what should have happened – the relevant standards 
    • what did happen o our provisional views
    • our analysis so far of DWP’s and ICE’s complaint handling, including o what should have happened – the relevant standards
      • what did happen o our provisional views

our analysis so far of injustice

Summary of our provisional views

  • The evidence we have seen so far suggests timely and accurate information was available about the change in eligibility criteria for a State Pension, including how someone’s National Insurance record links to how much State Pension they can claim once they reach State Pension age.  Research showed the majority of people knew about the changes.
  • However, research also showed that too many people did not understand their own situations and how State Pension reform affected them.  The gap between awareness and understanding was highlighted by the Work and Pensions Committee and the National Audit Office. DWP does not appear to have used research and feedback to improve its service and performance.  In this respect, DWP does not seem to have demonstrated principles of good administration.  We think that was maladministration. However, we do not think this maladministration led to the financial losses complainants claim.
  • Before 2016, people built up ‘qualifying years’ towards a Basic State Pension by paying National Insurance or through, for example, receiving benefits credits towards their National Insurance record.  Some people paid National Insurance to build up entitlement to an earnings-related State Pension on top of the Basic State Pension.  The earnings-related State Pension was called the Additional State Pension.  
  • Not everyone paid National Insurance towards the Additional State Pension.  Some people who joined personal or occupational pension schemes ‘contracted out’ of the Additional State Pension when they joined those schemes. While they continued to build up qualifying years for a Basic State Pension, they gave up their entitlement to the Additional State Pension. So, a person who had always contracted out would have been entitled to the Basic State Pension and their personal or occupational pension when they reached State Pension age, instead of being entitled to the Basic State Pension and Additional State Pension.
  • From April 2016, the new State Pension replaced the Basic State Pension and the Additional State Pension.  The full rate of the new State Pension is higher than the full rate of the old Basic State Pension.  People who were contracted out of the Additional State Pension before April 2016 but have reached or will reach State Pension age after April 2016 may not be eligible for the full rate of new State Pension.  A ‘contracted out deduction’ is made when calculating their starting amount of new State Pension to reflect the fact they contributed less into the National Insurance system in return for a personal or occupational pension. 
  1. Transitional arrangements introduced with the new State Pension mean that none of the complainants – or people like them – will get less State Pension under the ‘new’ rules introduced in April 2016 than they would have got under the ‘old’ ones.  DWP compares what they would have been entitled to under the old system and what they are entitled to under the new system, and they get the higher of these amounts.  The transitional arrangements also allow them to do things to add to their starting amount of new State Pension if it is lower than the full rate.  Having considered the complainants’ individual circumstances, we do not think they have lost any opportunities to add to their starting amount. 
  1. We also do not think maladministration in DWP’s communication of changes to State Pension age more likely than not led to all the financial, health, domestic and emotional consequences complainants claim. Complainants told us they made choices they would not have made if they had known their State Pension age had changed, and described the financial, family and health consequences those choices have had.  However, some of their choices had already been made by the time DWP should have written to them about changes resulting from the 1995 Pensions Act.  We do not think women lost opportunities to make different decisions, if those decisions had already been made by the time DWP should have written to them.
  1. However, we think an additional 28 months’ notice would have given complainants opportunities to consider, for example, saving, looking for work or changing job.  While there is too much we cannot now know for us to be able say what would have happened, it seems that some women are left not knowing whether they could have been in a different financial position, and whether they could have avoided the health and emotional consequences they claim.  We think that not knowing is an injustice resulting from maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age.
  1. We also think the anger and outrage complainants feel about not having as much notice of their State Pension age as they should have, could have been avoided if DWP had written to them when it should have.  Their sense of anger and outrage is a further injustice resulting from maladministration in DWP’s communication about State Pension age.
  1. We think some aspects of DWP’s complaint handling reflected applicable standards.  But, DWP does not appear to have adequately investigated or responded to the complaints it was considering, or avoided unnecessary delay.  In these respects, DWP does not seem to have demonstrated principles of good complaint handling.  We think that was also maladministration. 
  1. We think maladministration in DWP’s complaint handling caused complainants unnecessary stress and anxiety and meant an opportunity to lessen their distress was lost.  For some complainants, it also caused unnecessary worry and confusion.
  1. We think ICE’s complaint handling reflected applicable standards and guidance.  ICE appears to have acted within the scope of its remit, which is set out in its contract with DWP. We note, however, our view that the contract meant ICE could not address complainants’ key concern that they did not have as much personal notice of changes to their State Pension age as they should have.
  1. Finally, we think ICE should have said that it could not determine whether or not DWP had written to individual complainants who said they had never received a letter about their State Pension age, instead of telling them it was more likely than not they had been sent a letter.  But even if ICE had appropriately balanced the evidence in this way, we do not think the shortcoming in its handling of this issue was significant enough to be a failure to ‘get it right’.

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A whistleblower consultant’s victory that exposes scandals at the Care Quality Commission and a hospital trust

Whistleblower Dr Shyam Kumar; Pic Credit: BBC

The victory by whistleblower Dr Shyam Kumar, an orthopaedic surgeon, against his unfair dismissal as an part time inspector for the Care Quality Commission is just the tip of an iceberg scandal at both the CQC and the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

His victory – I am glad to say reported by the BBC, the Guardian and the medical press- was only possible by his persistence in the face of obstruction by the body that is supposed to hold up standards of medical care to protect patients and the collusion of a trust to protect its own reputation.

He told the BBC: “”The whole energy of a few individuals in the CQC was spent on gunning me down, rather than focusing on improvement to patient safety and exerting the regulatory duties,”

“I was perceived as a troublemaker within the CQC, or as a thorn in their side. That’s what I believe. And they just ignored it. And finally, people got involved.” 

The ruling at Manchester Employment Tribunal by Employment judge Mark Butler said he had received detriment for speaking out and awarded him £23,000 for injury to this feelings. Dr Kumar had not sought any other compensation.

The judge said:” There is evidence throughout this case….that the decision to disengage the claimant in this case (and the placing him on hold) has had a serious impact on the claimant’s reputation causing him injury to feelings. There were suggestions of misconduct by the claimant … where no evidence of this existed, and vague assertions of a breach of undefined values of the respondent … used in an attempt to justify the decisions made in this case, after the event” Instead the judge described Mr Kumar as a man with an untarnished reputation and expertise.

Dr X left a hip replacement patient never able to use her limbs

The detail of the concerns Dr Kumar found are deeply disturbing for patients. One involved Dr X whose two hip replacements on an elderly lady which overlooked the dislocation of her pelvis and she had to come back to accident and emergency unable to walk and his colleagues thought she would never be able to use her limbs again. When he raised this with the CQC and said a back review of Dr X’s cases should take place he was told the trust did not want to do this for reputational reasons.

When the Royal College of Surgeons did their own review much later into Dr X they found 26 out of 46 operations were matters of concern.

The judgement said:

a. some surgeries undertaken by Dr X were not completed to an acceptable
standard
b. some of the surgery and quality of care provided by Dr X was unacceptable.
c. some clinical decision making to undertake surgery by Dr X was
inappropriate.
d. in some cases there was either no or a lack of evidence of a “Duty of
Candour”

Dr Kumar was thanked by the associate medical director of the trust , Mr Damian Riley in 2021 for his work.

But at the time of the CQC inspection Dr Kumar faced a barrage of criticism from CQC officials, was effectively suspended from his job, and subject to racist attacks including being accused of being ” a traitor to his community ” for raising issues about Dr X’s competence by another trust doctor, Dr Sinha.

At a CQC focus meeting Dr Kumar was even falsely accused of deliberately creating NHS waiting lists so people would have to go privately – making extra money for doctors.

The CQC’s response was to side more with the trust than the whistleblower. This led Dr Kumar to write to the Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards. complaining that “patient safety is being
significantly compromised by the behaviour of some CQC staff.” He also complained he had been bullied and obstructed by CQC officials, his professional independence had been undermined and his whistleblowing concerns ignored.

The court upheld his protective disclosures. The judge also took a strong line in allowing the press access to all the documents in the case and also restricted an attempt by the CQC lawyers to restrict reporting of the Royal College of Surgeons report on the grounds that families had to be told first. The judge granted a very short restricted reporting period and was never challenged again.

The CQC in a statement said: “We accept the tribunal findings and have learnt from this case. We have already improved many of our processes and will continue to review these based on the findings to ensure we make any further necessary changes.”

Much wider issues than just this case

But there seems to me a much wider issue here about the behaviour of this particular trust and the role of regulation. This is not the first time this trust has been found wanting. There is the case of Peter Duffy, a consultant surgeon, working for the Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust. Faced with failures at the trust in the emergencies department he expressed concern for two patients who subsequently died from kidney sepsis.

One would have expected the Trust to have remedied the situation. Instead they turned on him rather than admit any failings. As he told Matthew Syed on Dispatches: ” I was on the receiving end of allegations of bullying, abuse and racism. And so what I hoped would be an attempt to raise standards became an investigation of myself”.

He was eventually proved right after an investigation disclosed multiple problems but not until after a five year toxic battle and now practices in the Isle of Man.

Inquiry chair Dr Bill Kirkup Pic credit: gov.uk

There is also the 2015 inquiry report by Dr Bill Kirkup into Furness Hospital, run by the trust over the deaths of babies and appalling maternity care.

As he says in his introduction: “The result was avoidable harm to mothers and babies, including tragic and unnecessary deaths. What followed was a pattern of failure to recognise the nature and severity of the problem, with, in some cases, denial that any problem existed, and a series of missed opportunities to intervene that involved almost every level of the NHS.”

There is a disturbing pattern that repeats itself. Whistleblowers, whether doctors or families, raise serious life and death issues, are ignored, denied justice, bullied and attacked, using the power of the state to buy expensive lawyers to try and crush them -only for them to be proved right in the end. With the Dr Chris Day case due to report this month following an extraordinary employment tribunal hearing where evidence was destroyed, it remains to see whether this pattern can start to be broken .

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Industrial espionage, destroyed documents, search warrants and contempt of court – all around the home delivery of your groceries

Ocado grocery delivery van. Pic credit: Which?magazine

Extraordinary story of how two high flying former Ocado executives planned to use the company’s trade secrets to get business from rivals Waitrose

You will know that home delivery of your groceries is competitive with supermarkets vying with each other for your business. All rely on some form of new technology to get this done.

This week a final court judgement saw a City solicitor being convicted of destroying documents required by a court order in a culmination of an extraordinary saga that has raged for the last three years over home grocery deliveries.

The case had been brought by Ocado Plc, the parent company of the on line grocery retailer, which used to deliver groceries for Waitrose and now delivers groceries for Marks and Spencer as well as its own goods.

One of the co founders of Ocado, Jonathan Faiman and later another executive, Jonathan Hillary, left Ocado to set up a rival grocery technology business called  Project Today Holdings Ltd.

Marks and Spencer logo; Pic Credit: Wikipedia Commons

But as the courts were told their business plan was far from ethical. Mr Faiman tried to get a deal with M&S but was beaten by his former employer, Ocado. At a meeting with M&S to discuss the plans with the company’s chief executive, Steve Rowe, Mr Faiman insisted his colleague -Mr Hillary, still working for Ocado, should have a secret identity only known as” Jon”. Unfortunately for him when the trial began Steve Rowe recognised that Jon was Mr Hillary. A memo also revealed Mr Faiman had contacted senior Ocado staff using ” burner phones”.

Mr Faiman then opened talks with Waitrose and wanted to win their business using Ocado’s trade secrets. To get their business he got Mr Hillary to copy them. Over dinner at Mr Hillary’s home Mr Hillary provided Mr Faiman and Mr McKeeve with documents. These included a copy of a set of contract terms recently agreed between Ocado and M&S entitled, “Agreement for the Provision of the Apricot Smart Platform” (the “OSP Contract”), and operational schedules for Ocado’s contract for the provision of the Ocado Smart Platform to Groupe Casino (a French Supermarket group) (the “Operational Schedules”).

Discussions with Waitrose proceeded constructively, and on 15 May 2019, Mr Hillary resigned from his position at Ocado for a new role with Today. On 16 May 2019, Waitrose announced a new commercial relationship with Today. On 23 May, Mr Hillary was placed on gardening leave by Ocado. He remained an Ocado employee.

Ocado came to be concerned about Mr Hillary’s activities in communicating with Mr Faiman. They suspected he had handed over confidential information and/or had been working for Today while still employed by Ocado, in breach of his contract of employment.

According to Mischon de Reya, Ocado’s solicitors Faiman and Hillary later admitted in a settlement statement “While still employed by Ocado, Mr Hillary, at Mr Faiman’s request, provided Mr Faiman with a significant number of confidential documents belonging to Ocado, including documents relating to the running of Ocado’s automated warehouses and the key agreement under which Ocado would provide its online grocery technology to the joint venture with M&S.”

Mr Faiman then admitted he was taking the hard copy confidential documents with Ocado’s trade secrets to Waitrose with the aim of cementing a business deal just as Ocado, went for a search warrant to find out whether its documents had been stolen. Waitrose when it realised what was happening pulled out of any deal.

But the situation was going to get much worse. The courts granted a search warrant covering the Connaught Hotel, a luxury five star hotel in Mayfair, London where Mr Faiman was staying and Mr Hillary’s home in Ascot and the firm’s offices in The Foundry in Fulham. The search warrant covered documents, electronic devices and mobile phones and Ocado’s secret documents were recovered from Mr Faiman’s hotel rooms.

Connaught Hotel, Mayfair where lawyers found the Ocado documents

Mr Faiman decided to involve his friend Raymond McKeeve, a City solicitor , who counted his company as a client. Mr McKeeve had been involved in the Waitrose negotiations. When told of the search warrants he panicked rang an IT employee and told him to ” burn all” – ie start destroying them. This happened just after the search warrants had been served.

The reason, as the courts were to discover, was that the company had a sophisticated private message and call system -known as the 3CX app- as a way of disguising its dealings between Mr Faiman and Mr Hillary so Ocado would not know. The system could be destroyed permanently at short notice. Mr McKeeve was particularly worried as his wife’s name Belinda de Lucy who then was elected as a Brexit Party European MP for South East England, without her knowledge and he thought she would be drawn into a dispute with Ocado. Her name was first used as pseudonym for Mr Hillary to communicate with Mr Faiman.

Ocado bring claim for criminal contempt against City solicitor

Ocado plc brought a claim for criminal contempt accusing Mr McKeeve of intentionally interfering with the administration of justice by causing the deletion of documents which were essential to Ocado’s case and thwarting the purpose of the search warrant. They also tried to extend this to other documents and email systems.

Mr Faiman and Mr Hillary had to agree to permanently destroy all the stolen documents and a pay a very large undisclosed sum to Ocado in a settlement. His company is now in administration – the last known accounts at Companies House showing it owed over £8m to creditors- including nearly £2m to HM Revenue and Customs. Mr Faiman declares his official residence is in the tax haven of Monaco.

But for Mr McKeeve it was not all over as he faced criminal contempt charges.

Mr Justice Adam Johnson Pic Credit: Judicial Appointments Commission

At the hearing Mr McKeeve, a City solicitor with a number of private equity clients, clearly did not realise how serious this had been. The judge, Mr Justice Adam Johnson, described him in his judgement as “an intelligent and driven individual. At the relevant time, he had a successful practice as a solicitor in the private equity field, which he was proud of.”

The judge said “at times [he] exhibited a degree of arrogance (for example, in the evidence he gave about his ability to “annihilate” complex legal documents at high speed). He was also at times combative in the evidence he gave.”

The judge said he had shown ” shame and embarrassment” for what he had done saying at one point: “The idea that I would have committed a contempt of anything just horrifies me. The word is so perfectly chosen because it is a most horrendous word. I would only show contempt where enemies of the state or people are trying to harm my family. The idea of showing contempt for the rule of law and the court is just beyond the pale.”

McKeeve’s act of colossal stupidity – judge

But the judge said despite everything he “could not quite bring himself to accept that what he had done wrong might amount to a contempt of Court.” What he did the judge concluded his conduct had been a ‘spontaneous act of colossal stupidity’.

Judge Johnson found him guilty of contempt of court over the destruction of the phone system but not on other additional cases brought by Ocado,

A spokesperson for Ocado said: ‘We felt compelled to bring this solicitor’s conduct to the attention of the court as it was the right thing to do. Ocado has been vindicated in its decision to do so. We welcome the judgment but take no joy in it. It is regrettable that a solicitor failed in his duty to uphold the administration of justice and was found to be in criminal contempt of court.’

The case was adjourned until October 4 to decide what sanctions Mr McKeeve will face for his contempt.

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