Guest blog: The appalling treatment of NHS whistleblowers parallels the Post Office sub-post masters scandal

Dr David.E.Ward,

 David E Ward, a distinguished retired cardiologist, formerly at St George’s Hospital, South London, responds to the judgement by Tony Hyams-Parish on the case of Dr Usha Prasad

The treatment of NHS whistleblowers is a national scandal of the same iniquitous order of magnitude as the miscarriages of justice meted out to the sub-postmasters. This latter saga began 20 years ago after the installation of faulty software called Horizon from Fujitsu. Incredibly it was not picked up for years because the victims were not believed or they were accused of lying. The evidence was not properly collated or scrutinised. Or was it, but no-one said anything. “No other post office has had this problem” they were told. Perhaps the current Judge led inquiry will find out. Many were incarcerated. Some sold their homes to pay thousands of pounds of fictitious till deficits. Sadly, some committed suicide.

The sequence of events for NHS whistleblowers is different but the outcomes are strikingly similar. The NHS whistleblowers’ stories are largely unknown to the wider public apart from the occasional one featured in a national newspaper.

The WB raises a concern, which by the way is their duty under law, (Duty of Candourhttps://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2014/9780111117613)

but instead of welcoming the exposure of the defect of a system (e.g. number of beds in a limited space), faulty equipment (e.g. a diagnostic machine) or a process (e.g. errors in admission procedures – wrong patient or wrong procedure) any of which may lead to patient harm or even death), the Trust fails to act but instead embarks upon a path of vicious and disproportionate reprisals against the WB.

The consequence of this chain of events is often catastrophic for the individual. The whistleblowing doctor may be subjected to repeated internal hearings, quasi-disciplinary proceedings, Maintaining High Professional Standards hearings etc. The latter may be chaired by lay persons with a legal qualification but posing as a barrister. Most doctors subject themselves (they raise an appeal) to an Employment Tribunal in the hope that justice will prevail. Sadly it does not. These proceedings are not formally recorded for later open scrutiny. The judge’s notes (such as they may exist) are private and not made available. It is also a criminal offence to make an electronic recording. The litigant can take notes but how do they manage to do that whilst giving evidence or listening intently to the evolution of their own fate? A preposterous suggestion.

Expensive lawyers who support the health trust

There is another major factor in these processes. They could not proceed without the complicity of the teams of expensive solicitors and barristers who support the Respondent. All this is paid for by the taxpayer. The claimant will of course have their own legal support if they can afford it but which is obviously limited by costs. This gross “inequality of arms” is a major factor in the final “justice” handed out. I don’t think many of us would call that fair and just. Doctors are threatened with enormous costs which in most cases could only be met by selling the family home. Why? Oh yes, it’s to force them to withdraw their claims and believe it or not it usually works!

Judge Tony Hyams-Parish

At Employment Tribunals it appears that the sum total of evidence is not scrutinised. Some evidence appears to be selectively omitted at the discretion of the ET Judge. In the Dr Prasad case (see David Hencke’s last blog) the admission by the lead of cardiology (Dr Richard Bogle) that a death which should have been reported to the coroner was not reported but “covered-up” is not even mentioned in the final judgment! One could ask for the transcript to check that this observation is correct. (Oh, no I can’t because there is no transcript but I did attend the virtual ET hearing and can vouch that I heard it stated!) That worked out quite well then didn’t it? To an outside observer who has some vicarious experience of these Tribunals it is nothing short of gobsmackingly incredible in a western democracy (I don’t have the full panoply of words to describe it!).

Former post office workers celebrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, after having their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal. Thirty-nine former subpostmasters who were convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office’s defective Horizon accounting system have had their names cleared by the Court of Appeal. Issue date: Friday April 23, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit : Yui Mok/PA Wire

The Post Office workers (Horizon scandal) did not commit any crimes neither did the NHS Whistleblowers. They have not broken any laws. Yet how is it that they have failed to present a case of sufficient strength to convince an ET Judge? Their punishment for exposing potentially harmful processes, which could save lives, is to be condemned, lose their careers, their livelihoods, their homes and in some cases their families or even their own lives. Put simply they are crushed by massive inequality of arms – expensive lawyers funded by the taxpayer. Swathes of evidence is ignored.

Is there some sort of collusion between the judiciary and the respondent or their legal representatives? Some MHPS hearings are seemingly very dodgy (some doctors/victims have observed this and can demonstrate it with evidence) up to and including the invention of spurious legal terms such as “fitness for purpose” which is unknown in British Employment law (see David Hencke’s blog on the Maintaining High Professional Standards Appeal).

Then there is always the possibility of undeclared conflicts of interest in the appointment of an ET officials. Just saying…..

Please donate to Westminster Confidential to allow my forensic coverage on this blog to continue.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00

Judge covers up “avoidable death” of heart patient and General Medical Council revalidation of Dr Usha Prasad to dismiss her whistleblowing case

Employment Judge Tony Hyams-Parish Pic credit: dmhstallard.com

Publication of avoidable death scandal at Epsom and St Helier University Health Trust leads to another relative coming forward and queries about a former senior staff member in Jersey

An employment judge has thrown out Dr Usha Prasad’s whistleblowing case and all her allegations of victimisation, sex harassment, and sex and race discrimination.

She is also facing a costs claim of an astounding £150,000 plus VAT via the law firm Capsticks from the Epsom and St Helier University Health Trust.

A letter from Capsticks says: ” The Respondent has incurred very substantial costs indeed in defending the unmeritorious proceedings, of in excess of £150,000 plus VAT. The costs incurred correlate to the Claimant’s unreasonable conduct and the unmeritorious nature of her complaints.”

Judge Tony Hyams-Parish’s judgement is long on the detail of all the various top management’s moves against Dr Prasad which led to an unprecedented 28 month suspension from clinical duties and remarkably short on any evidence given by her and her witnesses. He exonerates the actions of the senior management and ignores claims by any of her witnesses. And given he goes into such detail it is rather surprising he doesn’t mention that Daniel Elkeles, the former chief executive of the trust, offered to abandon the internal disciplinary proceedings against her if she dropped the tribunal case against the trust.

Indeed the most twisted part of his judgement is what he leaves out. Take the issue of the GMC revalidation of Dr Prasad. This is his purple passage:

“The Tribunal was invited to consider was the outcome of the claimant’s hearing before the GMC. The GMC began an investigation into the claimant which concluded in March 2021 with no further action to be taken. The claimant continued to state throughout this hearing that she had been exonerated by the GMC, suggesting that their conclusion must cast doubt on the actions and motivations of the respondent. However, the Tribunal found it difficult to draw any such conclusions from the GMC outcome. The Tribunal was not shown the content of the GMC referral or the case examiner’s report. Whilst the GMC and the respondent were looking at the same cases, their remits were likely to be quite different. In any event, the Tribunal was not shown sufficient evidence to decide either way.”

Really? The GMC judgement was entirely based on a list of 43 complaints submitted by the trust and obviously the trust expected it to be endorsed by the GMC. Instead it was sent to very experienced cardiologist in Middlesbrough who had worked at Papworth Hospital and he could not find anything wrong. And not only was this finding approved by the GMC, they revalidated her – taking away the power of the trust to do this. Given many doctors feel they are not well treated by the GMC, this was a remarkable outcome. The GMC was telling the trust to get stuffed.

Dr Usha Prasad with the former chief executive of the trust, Daniel Elkeles

The second area is the glossing over of the main whistleblowing claim. It centred around the avoidable death of a 76 year old man, Mr P, from heart failure, partly caused by negligence, muddle and poor communication at the trust. Dr Usha Prasad, who had no part in the care of the patient, was asked to review the case as an independent person. Evidence was given that an attempt was made to get Dr Prasad to rewrite her findings which included that the death should have been reported to the coroner and the Care Quality Commission. At the hearing Dr Richard Bogle, former head of the cardiology department, admitted that this should have been done – basically saying Usha Prasad’s judgement was right.

But this has been airbrushed from the judgement. If I hadn’t been there to report the case, no one would be the wiser that this happened.

Judge Tony Hyams-Parish disrespectful to dead man’s family

Not only to do I find this a gross omission but in my view the judge is being disrespectful to the man’s family by removing the details of the whistleblowing case. It is though he is thinking so what, a 76 year old dies, who cares?

But Judge Hyams-Parish knows he is on solid ground to ignore all this. He has already told Usha Prasad there is no recording or transcript of the proceedings, and his judges’ notes will never be released. So his judgement is the only record. And it is criminal offence if anyone has a recording.

Judgement a stain on British justice

My view is that this judgement is a stain on British justice which is supposed to be the epitome of ” fair play” and full transparency.

Instead it appears to me to more akin to Russian and Chinese justice .Here there is a semblance of justice but the result is a foregone conclusion. What appears in this case is the forces of the Establishment have been marshalled to intimidate and destroy an individual for the benefit of state power.

One good result of the publicity is that a relative of another person who died at St Helier hospital has come forward to me to investigate their case. And what happened at St Helier seems to have been picked up in Jersey, where this blog has a small circulation, and queries are being raised about a former senior manager at St Helier.

Please donate to my blog to continue my forensic investigations

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

£5.00
£10.00
£20.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00
£3.00
£9.00
£60.00

Or enter a custom amount

£

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Please donate to Westminster Confidential

£10.00