Two examples of how the NHS deal with whistleblowers

Daily Mail
By Daily Mail Reporter
15.05.2010

NHS consultant suspended from working for EIGHT YEARS for daring to speak out about high death rates

A leading heart consultant who blew the whistle on high death rates at his hospital has been banned from working for eight years - at a cost of £6million to the NHS.

Dr Raj Mattu was suspended in 2002 after he blew the whistle on dangerous clincial practicies and high death rates at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry.

The top practionner was stopped from working and hauled before a High Court judge, the General Medical Council and now, when found innocent of all charges, is being disciplined for asking for his old job back.

Hospital bosses have reportedly spent as much as £6million blocking his return.

Almost a decade after he first spoke out, the hospital has been found to have one of the highest death rates in the country.

Yet he is battling to resume his career as a cardiologist.

Last night, the defeated Labour Government stood accused of repeatedly breaking their 1997 election promise  to protect doctors and nurses who spoke out to protect patients.

Dr Mattu’s supporters claim Labour health ministers were aware of his situation, but refused to intervene.

Hospital bosses suspended high-flying specialist Dr Mattu on allegations of bulling a junior doctor.

But the 48-year-old, who was found innocent in a £500,000 independent inquiry, was still not allowed to return to his job - even though a High Court judge ruled he should go back to work.

After the QC-led independent inquiry, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire then reported Dr Mattu to the GMC, which also rejected the charges.

He was told he could return last year and began 18 months of retraining.

But now he has been told by hospital bosses that he will face further allegations at a new disciplinary hearing.

Dr Mattu, who was hired to raise standards in cardiology at the hospital, is being disciplined for asking for his old job back - which included pioneering heart research.

He has been forced to abandon his refresher training at two leading London hospitals by the hospital trust, which had organised the course.

Dr Mattu, who earned £110,000 as a specialist, last night said the saga has destroyed his career.

‘This has taken an enormous toll on me psychologically,’ he said. ‘To have been barred from doing the job I love for eight years has been a tremendous blow.

‘I never believed that this could go on for so long. I have been hung out to dry by the hospital and I have had no backing or support from the Department of Health.

‘Labour was pledged to protect people like me who spoke out on behalf of patients but I’ve been badly let down. Now that the trust has started new disciplinary action I have no idea where this will end.

‘It’s an absolute nightmare. I thought when they finally agreed that I could go back to work that it was all over. But the hospital is continuing to persecute me.

‘It has had a terrible effect on my mental and physical health and affected my relationships with family.’

Ted Needham, a research scientist who worked with the doctor, said: ‘Dr Mattu has not done anything wrong clinically. His only crime was to speak up on behalf of patients and report things he saw were wrong that were costing lives.’

He added: ‘He has been left in limbo. Without retraining he can’t go back to work. It’s the same as being suspended. He can’t organise his own retraining. That has to be sponsored by the trust.

‘He has every right in law to go back to his old job which involved treating patients and doing vital heart research. But they want to take away his research work and he quite rightly wants to carry on.

‘If Dr Mattu is innocent then he should be allowed to carry on with his retraining. You cannot discipline someone simply because they ask to return to their old job.’

Department of Health guidelines state that long term suspensions should be avoided and suspensions should be dealt with speedily within six months.

Hospitals are also directed to avoid suspensions for non clinical reasons.

A former colleague of Dr Mattu said: ‘We had terrible death rates here according to the national statistics and Raj was brave enough to point out where mistakes were being made.’

Walsgrave Hospital is one of 25 hospitals singled out in a report by Professor Brian Jarman for having higher than average death rates.

He urged that all the hospitals should be subject to immediate investigation by the Care Quality Commission.

A University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust spokesman said: ‘We are aware of the information being put into the public domain by Dr Mattu’s supporters.  Much of the information being published is, in our view, inaccurate and misleading.

‘We have however, being a responsible employer, made a commitment to keep matters between any of our employees and ourselves strictly confidential.’

Full article

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Daily Mail
15.05.2010
By Fay Schlesinger

The nurse victimised for being a whistleblower: Trainee thrown out after exposing abuse at shamed hospital

A student nurse who exposed the appalling neglect of elderly patients at a hospital trust where up to 1,200 people died needlessly has been thrown off her training course.

Two years after the Stafford Hospital scandal, Barbara Allatt reported NHS colleagues for leaving patients in soiled sheets, shouting at dementia sufferers and secretly slipping sedatives into a cup of tea.

But the mature student was condemned for having an ‘attitude problem’ before being withdrawn from her nursing course at Staffordshire University last month.

Miss Allatt, 40, now plans to sue over a ‘culture of bullying’ during placements at Stafford Hospital and Cannock Chase Hospital, both part of the crisis-hit Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust.

Her experiences come after a damning independent inquiry found the safety of sick and dying patients was ‘routinely neglected’, leading to between 400 and 1,200 unnecessary deaths at the trust between 2005 and

But no officials were disciplined and two years on hospital bosses have apparently failed to tackle the ‘inhumane treatment’ identified in the report.

Miss Allatt, from Cannock, said: ‘The wards were heartbreaking. There were patients crying out for help but the staff would sit chatting.

‘Some needed urgent pain relief or a change of sheets and others just needed a bit of reassurance, but they were ignored, shouted at or mocked with cruel names.

‘Sick and elderly people were manhandled and abused.

‘But when I complained my colleagues told me to mind my own business. They were so pally with each other that they shut me out and I felt helpless.’

Miss Allatt, a mother of one with a long-term partner, left her job as an occupational therapy technician to start a diploma in adult nursing in March last year.

She passed her exams and got glowing reports on placements in the community - but was disgusted by what she saw on hospital wards.

Over four months at Stafford and Cannock Chase hospitals between May 2009 and January this year, she recorded a catalogue of horrors.

Miss Allatt repeatedly reported her concerns to her university tutors, hospital mentors and senior nurses, but she claims she was fobbed off or attacked for whistleblowing.

In January she was suspended for four weeks over her ‘behaviour, attitude and fitness to practise’.

She was supported by the Royal College of Nursing, but lost two appeals against her suspension, and a fitness to practise panel permanently withdrew her place on the course last month.

Miss Allatt, who suffered stress and depression over her 2008 ordeal, is planning to sue the university for breaching the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which is designed to protect whistleblowers.

She will also take legal action against the trust for bullying, she said.

Now back at work as an occupational therapist, she said: ‘I still feel horribly traumatised, but at least I can sleep at night knowing I have reported them and been an advocate for the patient.’

Julie Bailey, from the Cure the NHS campaign group set up for victims’ families in the wake of the Stafford Hospital scandal, said: ‘This is evidence that no lessons have been learnt.

‘There are good nurses - Barbara is proof of that - but they are forced out by bullying and victimisation.

‘Managers at the hospital and the university knew she was a conscientious student who wanted to uphold nursing standards and reject disturbing, illegal practices, but labelled her with an attitude problem.’

The Royal College of Nursing said it did not comment on individual cases, but in a statement prepared for an appeal hearing, a representative said: ‘There is nothing . . . that would suggest anything other than Barbara being a knowledgeable, intelligent, enthusiastic student who performs well and questions appropriately.

‘She was unfairly tagged as a troublemaker when she raised concerns on her first placement. This bad name followed her to her next placement.

‘I would suggest collusion between several nurses, and that the decision has been made at some level that it is easier to remove Barbara from her training than pursue her allegations.’

Full article

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