An orthopaedic surgeon dismissed for whistleblowing about patient safety concerns has won his claim against the Care Quality Commission (CQC) where he had a part-time secondment.
Shyam Kumar worked for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust but was engaged as a special adviser on hospital inspections for the healthcare watchdog in 2014.
Between 2015 and 2019 Kumar contacted senior colleagues at the CQC, raising concerns about inadequate hospital inspections, staff bullying and serious patient harm. He said these concerns were ignored and ultimately led to his dismissal.
“The whole energy of a few individuals in the CQC was spent on gunning me down, rather than focusing on improvement to patient safety and exerting the regulatory duties,” said Kumar, the BBC reports.
In June 2018 he emailed CQC colleagues about negligently performed operations, the manipulation of waiting lists and significant patient harm at Morecambe Bay and how the trust was burying the concerns “under the carpet”.
Other issues included a hospital inspection where patient safety was compromised because whistleblowing doctors were prevented from discussing their concerns.
At the Manchester employment tribunal, counsel representing the CQC, put it to Mr Kumar his claim the regulator had ignored his concerns was “fanciful”.
Kumar said: “I was perceived as a troublemaker within the CQC, or as a thorn in their side. That’s what I believe. And they just ignored it. And finally, people got involved.”
The judgment in the case said “it is very clear that the emails and concerns raised by the claimant in the form of protected disclosures had a material influence on the decision to disengage him.”
Kumar did not pursue damages for any financial loss in his claim, limiting it to an award for injury to feelings and a declaration only.
The judgment said that appointing a surgeon to undertake work for the CQC is a badge of expertise and of goodstanding in the medical community.
“Where disengaging him and/or placing him on hold would inevitably impact upon his reputation among his peers, his employing trust and the wider community. We accept the evidence of the clamant that this caused damage to his reputation, caused him shock, confusion and concern. And in consequence injured his feelings,” the judgment said.
Kumar was accordingly awarded £23,000.
The CQC said in a statement: “We accept the tribunal findings and have learnt from this case. We have already improved many of our processes and will continue to review these based on the findings to ensure we make any further necessary changes.”