Sir Norman Lamb, the former health minister, gave evidence on the first full day of the tribunal hearing between whistleblower junior doctor Chris Day and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. The tribunal is the latest hearing in a nine year battle between Dr Day and the trust over safety standards and staff shortages at the intensive care unit and accident and emergency unit at Woolwich Hospital in 2013-14.
Sir Norman, now chair of the neighbouring South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, had been summoned by Dr Day’s legal team to appear. His evidence which largely was not challenged by the trust revealed the various correspondence he had with both the trust and Dr Andrew Frankel, a former postgraduate dean at the now merged Health Education England.
Health Education England succeeded at an earlier tribunal hearing this year in removing themselves from the case after Dr Frankel admitted he had acted deceitfully without HEE’s knowledge in trying to change Sir Norman’s mind over Dr Day’s case. I wrote two blogs about this earlier this year. They are here and here.
Sir Norman told the hearing he had probably had around 9 or 10 meetings with Dr Day since 2017. This included one with Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, others with Dr Frankel and Ben Travis, then chief executive of the trust.
At the meeting with Jeremy Hunt on 23 May 2018 “Dr Day set out details of his case and in particular the reality of the night time staffing at the relevant hospital’s lntensive Care Unit, the fact that it departed
significantly from national standards of safe levels of staffing, and that there were two deaths associated with the working conditions. The investigations at the time described clearly unacceptable staffing as acceptable.”
At the next one on 1 November 2018 came after Dr Day had settled the case after being threatened by the trust for costs and his legal team was also threatened for wasted costs.
Sir Norman said: “I remember being very surprised that Chris had settled the claim before the end of the tribunal hearing given the fact that he had spent years working to get the chance to put his case to the tribunal. Chris told me that he had been faced by an impossible dilemma. He told me that he feared losing his family home if costs were ordered against him. He said he had consulted his wife on the decision, and they had agreed that as parents, he could not carry on. Chris told me that Mel, his wife, had urged him to settle “
“ln preparation for this hearing, I have seen an email dated 30 November 2018 from
Dr Day’s then Barrister, Mr Chris Milsom, to Dr Day. Mr Milsom confirms what he was told by the NHS’s barristers about the consequences of Dr Day continuing the case. Mr Milsom further states that ‘this was a “sophisticated discussion” that was in “no way invited by [Mr Milsom].” 1 can also see reference to wasted cost consequences directed against Dr Day’s former legal team by the NHS Counsel.”
This bit of evidence led to lengthy cross questioning by the trust’s barrister, Dan Tatton Brown, who tried to get Sir Norman to agree that Dr Day had settled because he felt he might lose the case and face costs which were not meant as a threat. Sir Norman disagreed.
Sir Norman’s later evidence shed even more light on the behaviour of Dr Frankel who arranged a meeting with him in 2019.. Evidently he claimed that an inquiry he set up into Dr Day’s allegations had said there was no suggestion any point (sic) that the panel had been briefed negatively about Dr Day.”
The report claimed wrongly “Dr Day had variously been described as ‘tenaciously going on and
on’ about it,’ gripped by angst’ and ‘shaking as he recalled events’ and ‘locked in.
One of the report panel members, Dr Madhurie Chakravarti-Chattopadhyay states in her statement to the Employment Tribunal for the 2018 hearing that:’ l did not feel that the report portrayed the situation as accurately from my perspective as I would have wanted.’
She states that she was: – ‘very surprised to find that various phrases in inverted comma ‘seemingly quoting me, when I could not recall saying fhose phrases”
.ln another statement to the Employment Tribunal, Dr Hans Sauer, who was Dr Day’s clinical supervisor at the time of the ARCP Panel meeting on 3d June 2014, stated of Dr Day; ‘He is a competent and confident trainee with a skill set which exceeds the expectations of someone of his level of training. He is aware of his limitation and not afraid to ask for help and advice.’
He states that ‘l find these allegations extremely surprising as during the whole period of my engagement with the Claimant I never noticed any basis for such allegations”.
Dr Frankel then accepted that Dr Day had raised serious and legitimate concerns about the respondent in his protected disclosures. Yet I have subsequently been informed that Dr Frankel had not stated any of this in his witness statement for the Employment Tribunal hearing in 2018″ and said his workload was acceptable.
Finally he met Mr Travis after the trust had put out a statement criticising Dr Day.
Sir Norman wrote to Mr Travis saying;
” It is my belief that aspects of the Trust’s public statements (as referred to in Chris Day’s letter) are severely defamatory and should be withdrawn forthwith and that there should be a full apology. I should stress again that the inaccuracies in the public statements by the Trust are not only defamatory but are deeply distressing. They are damaging to Chris Day’s reputation.”
Mr Travis said he couldn’t comment after Dr Day won a case to bring a further hearing. The tribunal continues.
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