18 apr 2014
An Indian-origin heart surgeon in the UK was unfairly sacked after he raised concerns about patient safety, an employment tribunal has ruled.
Dr Raj Mattu was dismissed by University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust in 2010.
In 2001, he had exposed the cases of two patients who had died in crowded bays at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry.
Fifty-four-year-old Mattu said he was “absolutely relieved” at the ruling. The trust said it was disappointed and would examine the ruling for grounds to appeal.
Mattu was first suspended over allegations he bullied a junior doctor. He was allowed to return to work but only after re-training – which he never completed.
In 2009, General Medical Council cleared Mattu of the bullying allegations yet he was sacked by the hospital trust.
Employment Judge Pauline Hughes ruled the consultant “did not cause or contribute to his dismissal” and had been subject to “many detriments” by the trust for being a whistle-blower.
His allegations had been “serious” and “attracted a great deal of media coverage and public interest”, she said.
She also ruled that the surgeon had been treated “unfavourably” by the trust as a result of a disability. But she dismissed Mattu’s claims of racial discrimination.
Mattu told BBC Radio that the trust had made false allegations against him as a “plausible alternative” for his dismissal – when the real reason had been his whistle blowing.
“Scores of false allegations, some of them quite heinous, were put forward,” he said.
“The saddest thing out of all of this for me is that the people who have lost out the most are the patients and the public because for 13 years the trust management have prevented me from looking after patients.
“They have also, in the way they have treated me, discouraged any further whistle blowers in the NHS from coming forward and risking having their career and livelihood destroyed,” Mattu said.
During the tribunal, Mattu said his concerns about overcrowding in wards had been ignored. He claimed a policy of allocating five patients to four-bed bays in 1999 had prevented vital equipment being used to save the life of a 35-year-old man.
The specialist decided to “go public” in September 2001, after a hospital manager appeared in TV news reports insisting that lives had not been lost because of overcrowding.
An NHS review in 2004 cleared the hospital trust of responsibility for any deaths in relation to overcrowding.
Mattu now wants to meet Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and new NHS chief executive Simon Stevens to discuss the “important lessons” from his case, including ensuring other doctors are not similarly treated for whistle blowing.
The cardiologist’s solicitor Stephen Moore said, “The tribunal’s findings – that Dr Mattu was a whistle-blower and was unfairly dismissed – completely vindicate him”.