A hospital consultant who raised safety concerns about a new procedure has been awarded £219,000 compensation for unfair dismissal.
Jasna Macanovic, a consultant nephrologist (meaning she worked with the kidneys), won a whistleblowing case against Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust in 2022 after an employment tribunal heard she was dismissed shortly after making a protected disclosure.
Macanovic expressed her concerns about a procedure known as buttonholing, which uses blunt needles to aid dialysis. She had learned that some patients had suffered complications as a result of the approach, and other colleagues were also sceptical of the procedure. Patients typically receive dialysis, which removes toxins from the kidneys, using two sharp needles.
She made a series of complaints internally at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Portsmouth and when these failed, she filed a report with the Care Quality Commission. The Trust commissioned its own review of the procedure and together with the CQC, decided it was safe to proceed. Macanovic subsequently reported the issue to the General Medical Council.
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At the same time, the Trust began its own investigation into her behaviour, telling the tribunal that Macanovic had become “unmanageable” and that relations at work had become “poisoned”. In February 2018, it began a disciplinary investigation, followed by a hearing, and she was dismissed a few days later for “serious misconduct”.
She made an initial claim to the tribunal in January 2018 but this was later amended to include her dismissal.
The tribunal judge found that the fact that strong feelings had been aroused by the disclosures strengthened “the connection between the disclosure and the dismissal”.
“The main plank of the respondent’s case is that Dr Macanovic was not dismissed for making these disclosures but for the manner in which she did so,” the judgment said.
“The plain fact is that after over twenty years of excellent service in the NHS, Dr Macanovic was dismissed from her post shortly after raising a series of protected disclosures about this one issue.”
The tribunal also heard that a non-executive director should have been appointed to support Macanovic as a whistleblowing complainant, but while someone was given this role, she made no contact with the complainant.
The consultant was often excluded from meetings and told to avoid any discussions about buttonholing while the investigations were ongoing.
At the time of the tribunal decision last year, a spokesperson for Portsmouth Hospitals University Trust said in a statement: “We respect the decision of the employment tribunal panel and as a trust are committed to transparency and continuous improvement.
“At PHU, the safety and care of our patients is our top priority, and we took the original concerns raised very seriously. These concerns were thoroughly investigated and reviewed internally and externally, including by the Care Quality Commission. We are committed to supporting colleagues raising concerns, so they are treated fairly with compassion and respect.”
The remedy hearing awarded Macanovic £186,697 in compensation for unfair dismissal, plus £33,000 for injury to feelings following unlawful detriments for raising protected disclosures.
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