NHS suspend 3 whistleblowers in London
Three senior NHS staff in London claim they have been suspended for whistle blowing after raising concerns about the hospitals they work in.As NHS staff they are entitled to protection under the Public Disclosure Act 1998 from dismissal or victimisation if they have concerns about misconduct and malpractice.
But the three health trusts concerned have denied suspending them for speaking out.
The trio became whistle-blowers because of fears about standards of care, they told BBC London’s Inside Out programme.
Ramon Niekrash, a surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, south London, said he complained to his manager because he did not believe local health services were “adequate” or “safe”.
“The concerns related to staffing levels” and the number of clinical nurse specialists for cancer, he said.
He also said a patient who had a biopsy on his prostate which was positive for cancer had to wait six months to be seen by a consultant.
Mr Niekrash subsequently won a legal battle to be reinstated but had to pay a £140,000 legal bill.
Radiologist Sharmila Chowdhury was the imaging services manager in charge of 60 staff when she was “marched off the premises” at Ealing Hospital in west London.
She claimed to have discovered what she believed were “anomalies” in her department’s budget.
“My main role was to manage the budget, day in, day out. I was concerned because I wasn’t sure I hadn’t got it wrong. When I found anomalies I did raise the issues with the line manager and senior managers.”
She said she was “stunned and humiliated” by her treatment.
Henry Fernandez, a nurse with the Kent and Medway NHS Trust, received a £70,000 settlement before a tribunal was due to take place, after he made complaints about his department.
He said he was told “to go back to my office, clear my desk and get off the premises”.
In Mr Fernandez’s case the Trust did not accept he was penalised for whistle-blowing and said that “an out-of-court settlement was discussed with Henry Fernandez for unfair dismissal but no agreement was reached”.
Inside Out has spoken to other NHS staff who said they had been suspended for highlighting concerns at work.
They said they were still being paid by their employers but had not been allowed to return to work.
A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the programme discovered nearly 600 NHS staff in London were suspended in 2009/10.
A total of 56 of London’s 71 hospitals responded to the FoI request asking how many staff were suspended last year.
There were 514 staff, plus 84 doctors and dentists who are being were paid to stay away from work.
The cost of their wages reached a figure of £3m.
However these figures cover suspensions for reasons which include illness, “gardening leave” between jobs and those who have been suspended but claim the action taken against them was for whistle-blowing.
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