A renowned cardiologist who blew the whistle over a hospital’s failings was unfairly dismissed in an attempt to ruin his reputation, an employment tribunal has ruled.
Dr Kevin Beatt was sacked in September 2012 after calling Croydon hospital out on alleged staff shortages, “appalling” equipment and the bullying and harassment of junior employees.
Prior to the sacking, Beatt led Croydon University Hospital’s cardiology department for six years.
It is believed that this is the first time an NHS whistleblower has won such a legal dispute on unfair dismissal.
His concerns were made known following the death of a heart patient, 63-year-old Gerald Storey, during what should have been a routine operation at the hospital in June 2011.
The inquest into Storey’s death heard that a senior nurse had been suspended three hours before the operation without Beatt’s knowledge and that her absence contributed to the patient’s death.
Beatt was left for 20 minutes with a nurse who did not have any basic familiarity with the procedure. He called the suspension “the most overtly reckless act” he had ever witnessed in his career.
The cardiologist was embroiled in a legal battle with Croydon Health Services NHS Trust for two years and finally won. He stands to receive thousands of pounds in compensation following his landmark victory.
The cardiologist said the legal battle has taken a “very considerable toll” on him and he is currently unable to find work within the NHS.
After the tribunal ruling, he said the trust had pursued the legal battle to “prevent [him] from getting a job”.
Beatt added that he believed the trust spent more than £100,000 fighting his case and he was only able to proceed because his lawyers Linklaters agreed to work pro bono.
The trust has also reported Beatt to the General Medical Council, leaving him fearful for the future of his career. He said: “The NHS does not reemploy whistle blowers.”
The trust justified the dismissal by saying Beatt had made “unsubstantiated and unproven allegations of an unsafe service” and that his criticisms were “vexatious”.
The tribunal also heard that the hospital’s clinical lead for medical specialities, Dr Asif Qasim, claimed that Beatt was mentally unstable.
But it ruled that there was “no consistent evidence” of misconduct on the part of the cardiologist and that chief executive John Goulston had “failed to carry out a fair process”.
According to the Croydon Advertiser, the tribunal was heavily critical of Goulston’s role and said it was “struck by how little understanding he had of the facts, the issues before him and of the evidence that had been presented by [Dr Beatt] or his role as appeals manager”.
The tribunal also found that there was “no evidence” that Beatt had an ulterior motive and that “extremely damaging and entirely false” allegations had been directed at him.
Employment judge Gill Sage, who chaired the tribunal, also mentioned that she believed a “misleading” press statement about Mr Beatt’s dismissal had been “calculated and was likely to cause damage to his reputation”.
A spokesman for the trust said: “We are clearly very disappointed with the tribunal’s decision. We take all concerns about patient safety extremely seriously, as well as allegations of bullying against any of our employees.”
“It is everyone’s responsibility at CHS to uphold great care for patients and for our staff to know that they will be listened to and supported.”
He added that the trust would appeal the ruling