Whistleblowing Surgeon Claims Unfair Dismissal

A top cancer specialist at Royal Marsden Hospital has claimed he was forced from his position following his writing of a series of articles that criticise the NHS. Joseph Meirion Thomas, 69, was told he had brought the institution into ‘disrepute’ and was abruptly dismissed.

He believes the article that resulted in the negative reaction was one that included his assertion that GPs in the UK do not offer personal services to patients or go out of their way to assist patients by working outside of their daily hours.

When this article was published in November 2014 it provoked a negative reaction from doctors across Britain who condemned the claims as unprofessional and without truth. Royal Marsden Hospital has distanced itself from Dr Thomas, issuing a statement saying that the content of his articles reflect just his own ‘personal views’ and are not based on sound evidence, thereby making him to blame for constituting a ‘misrepresentation of the facts’.

Dr Thomas also believes that in response to the article a large umber of GPs contacted the chief executive at Royal Marsden Hospital making threats to end the referral of their patients to the hospital if the doctor was not punished. The result of this was that Dr Thomas found himself required to sign a document stating he would no longer publish such articles.

He refused to sign and was subsequently dismissed from his position at the hospital in March 2015.

Explaining his position Dr Thomas wrote about his experience via a number of recent posts for The Spectator. In one of these pieces he explained:

For speaking frankly about the NHS, I was first silenced and then pushed out. My offence was considered unforgivable […] If the NHS can treat a senior cancer surgeon this way, what chance does a nurse or a junior doctor with grave concerns about the health service have?”

His efforts to negotiate a new contract with the hospital that would let him to stay employed on a part-time basis in order to complete a research project for skin cancer patients was denied. This caused Dr Thomas to query whether the hospital has his patients’ best interest at heart as the health of many patients would be jeopardised should the work not be completed at the expense of his punishment.

The doctor claims his whistleblowing went beyond affecting his position at the hospital. He states that his title of ‘professor’, given to him following his receiving an honorary award from Imperial College London, is no longer valid due to having expired; a rare decision to be imposed upon a leading surgeon.

Reaction by the hospital

The doctor’s experiences have led him to begin a discrimination claim against his former bosses. He is claiming to have been bullied and harassed due to his whistleblowing, which is an act protected under UK employment law legislation.

All claims made by Dr Thomas have been denied by the NHS Trust which states that the doctor’s claims are without merit due to no official disciplinary proceeding being taken against him.

The Trust also asserts there was no effort made to censor articles published by Dr Thomas, and that they simply requested he first share the content with them prior to publishing in order for them to assess his concerns while preparing for the public reaction.

Officials claim that the only response made by the Trust in regard to the doctor’s position at the hospital was to give him with a seven day period of paid leave after the articles were published so that he and the hospital could both respond to the heated reaction in an effective manner.

The Trust also protests Dr Thomas’ claim that he was refused permission to contact his patients so that he could explain the reason for his sudden absence to them in person.
The doctor’s suddenly leaving Royal Marsden Hospital is being explained by the Trust as being part of his agreed retirement plan, which they claim he has deliberately chosen not to acknowledge in his claims against the hospital.

A statement released by a spokesman for the Trust claims that Dr Thomas “He fails to disclose that a succession plan had been put in place with his involvement and support well in advance of his retirement date of March 2015 to ensure a smooth transition for patients .

Recent whistleblowing changes

The controversial departure of Dr Thomas comes just months after UK employment law legislation incorporated major reforms intended to highlight prejudice against whistleblowers, with the intention being to create a better working atmosphere in which whistleblowers can speak out without fear of reprisal.

Planned changes of this kind include UK organisations having to employ an official whose position will involve advising and protecting whistleblower concerns.

Ex-Kids Company Employee Whistleblows Over Alleged £10,000 Theft

Kids Company has experienced further problems this week due to an unidentified whistleblower making allegations about £10,000 of the charity’s money vanishing from the charity’s Urban Academy Centre branch in Southwark back in 2012.

The whistleblower claims the event was hushed up with no effort getting made to locate the missing money. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the whistleblower stated that although the police were called over the incident nothing came of the investigation. The money in question is believed to have been funded by both the public and through private donations.

The unidentified ex-employee also says that he and other staff at the Urban Academy Centre had suspicions over the behaviour of a certain supporter who was regarded as one of Kids Company’s ‘favoured clients’ because this person was present at the Southwark centre the day the money went missing. Explaining the situation the whistleblower remarked: “everyone knew it was him and nothing came of it”.

The whistleblower also claimed that the alleged money was just part of the ‘chaos’ that existed within the popular charity managed by founder Camila Batmanghelidjh. These claims are just the top of the iceberg for Kids’ Company which is facing a string of allegations ranging from donations being misspent to horrific acts of child abuse, exploitation and sexual offences occurring within the charity across the UK.

Ms Batmanghelidjh’s image as a leading figure in UK child care has been damaged substantially since the charity’s recent collapse. She has been widely derided by both the public and the press as rumours of her being complicit in the corruption continue to spread. Defending herself from blame, Ms Batmanghelidjh has accused “rumour-mongering civil servants, ill-spirited ministers and the media” for turning her into a scapegoat.

Ms Batmanghelidjh is also facing claims that she met with leading Tory party donor James Lupton to secure funds to keep Kids’ Company afloat once it became clear the charity was facing financial ruin. However, Lupton refutes any assertion that he was part of a decision to ignore the advice of civil servants and grant the charity a £3 million bail-out one week before its problems were made public on August 5th.

Kids Company has not yet issued a statement responding to the claims made by the unidentified whistleblower.

Exploring Public Concern at Work’s 2015 Whistleblowing Reports

The Public Concern at Work (PCaW) charity has published its 2015 YouGov survey into whistleblowing, along with a new report reviewing 1,000 of the cases that PcaW received via its Advice Line during 2014. The advice line was set up in 1993 to encourage workers speak up about workplace concerns, and to date it has aided the concerns of 18,000 whistleblowers.

The results of both reports reveal startling insights into how whistleblowers are viewed by the public and what the actual experience of whisteblowing feels like for the individual.

The representation of whistleblowing found by the 2015 YouGov survey:

PCaW’s YouGov report has revealed that 74% of workers in Britain regard the term ‘whistleblowing’ in either a positive or neutral light. This acts in contrast to the reality felt by many whistleblowers, who become alienated and ostracised by their co-workers and/or employers after speaking out.

The YouGov report also highlights that within the last two years 11% of UK workers have at some point felt concerned that corruption and/or malpractice has occurred in their place of work, and that they fear that this could potentially jeopardise their own lives or those of the general public.

Just 59% of the 11% who felt this way actually chose to bring their concern to an employer, which suggests that more needs to be done to create an environment in which UK workers feel safe enough to whistleblow.

A more positive statistic of the report is that out of all workers polled, 81% said they felt comfortable bringing up a whistleblowing concern to their employer if such a circumstance presented itself.

Other good news of the report is that 48% of workers said that they were aware of their employer having an active whistleblowing policy in place that would allow them to freely voice their concerns; a 6% rise over the poll results of 2013.

A more worrying statistic is that a massive 67% of workers do not know there are existing laws designed to protect whistleblowers from persecution, which again suggests more needs to be done by UK employers to ensure their workers are aware of the whistleblowing rights they hold.

The reality of whisteblowing found by the 2015 PCaW whistleblowing report

The whistleblowing report from PCaW is intended to get a closer look at the reality of whistleblowing by questioning those those directly involved in a case of whistleblowing. This report surveyed more than 2,000 working adults in Britain and reveals some very interesting statistics in regard to the relations that exist between employer and worker.

One serious area of concern remains employer refusal to acknowledge the authenticity of a whisteblowing case by choosing instead to either ignore or deny the claim. This remains high, being recorded in 52% of all cases. Although this figure is a positive 11% decrease over the same research of 2013,

Perhaps the most shocking statistic is that a massive 80% of whistleblowers experienced some form of backlash from their employer, which led to them either being unfairly dismissed or feeling forced into resigning their position. Cathy James, the Chief Executive of PCaW has derided this high percentage:

“It is unacceptable almost eight out of ten whistleblowers contacting our advice line suffer some sort of reprisal for raising a concern. It is clear much work must be done by organisations to inform, inspire and celebrate workers when it comes to whistleblowing.

Despite there begin as many as 80% of whistleblowers experiencing hostility for their actions, research also shows that 33% of whistleblowers actually felt their employer met their claim positively and were satisfied with how it was dealt with. This is an increase over the 26% recorded in 2013.

Cathy James has spoken of her charity’s reaction to the final report results:

“While the perception of whistleblowers in society is increasingly positive and when asked hypothetically our respondents thought they would to do the right thing, we are seeing that more staff are unwilling to speak up. This must, in part, be due to the lack of awareness around legal protection and the fact in reality whistleblowing is still a risky activity for a large number of our clients. Although the improvements we are seeing in the way that the concern is being handled are welcome, these findings must be interpreted in the broader context of how the whistleblower is being treated.