Stop toxic NHS Management culture harming staff and patients

by Sue Allison

Stop toxic NHS Management culture harming staff and patients

by Sue Allison
Sue Allison
Case Owner
I am a specialist breast radiographer; In 2012 I raised patient safety concerns about a senior consultant missing cancers, as a consequence I have been bullied, defamed and blacklisted within the NHS
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Sue Allison
Case Owner
I am a specialist breast radiographer; In 2012 I raised patient safety concerns about a senior consultant missing cancers, as a consequence I have been bullied, defamed and blacklisted within the NHS
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Latest: July 10, 2019

'Delay, deny and defend' Morecambe Bay Trust sticks to its motto

The last time I posted an update we were waiting for the written judgement from my hearing on 2nd of April and I was hoping that by now I could also tell you about the telephone hearing which was s...

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Background

I'm an NHS healthcare professional, a qualified radiographer for 34 years, currently studying for a PHD and I have been bullied and victimised by my employer ever since I raised concerns about patient safety over 6 years ago.

I work in the specialist area of breast cancer diagnosis, an area where there are critical shortages of radiologists and highly skilled radiographers. Until recent years, I really loved my job and worked hard both clinically and academically to be the best I could be for the patients.

However, when I raised concerns about a consultant missing cancers in 2012 and subsequently lodged a written grievance, I never anticipated how my life would change.

My Trust delayed investigating my concerns for 2 years but bullying towards me and a whistle-blowing colleague began immediately. We were subject to a smear campaign, ostracised, and maligned within our department; but we persisted, as patients were at risk. The Trust attempted to cover-up the wrongdoing in an attempt to minimise further damage as they had already been involved in a maternity scandal where a mother and several babies had died needlessly.

This is a familiar story but only a few NHS staff who end up in this position are able to share their story as many are subject to Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), sometimes known as gagging orders, which prevent them revealing details of the toxic managerial behaviour which is destroying our NHS.

After two and a half years of bullying and victimisation, I too was pressured and blackmailed into signing a non-disclosure agreement, with no legal advice on the terms or effect. It was designed to make it impossible for me to ever talk about the victimisation I had suffered for trying to protect patient safety.

I have tried to continue with my job which I love and work hard at, but the detriment towards me continues. My career and reputation have been destroyed, and I have been restricted in my hours and opportunities at work, which has caused extensive psychological and financial repercussions for myself and my family.

When I found out last year that I was blacklisted across the NHS I realised that the Trust's destruction of me, as a whistle-blower, was complete. I have no career, my reputation is destroyed, and I have been forced out of a job that I love. This is why I took my case to the Employment Tribunal.

My Case

In August 2018, I lodged a claim with the Employment Tribunal. My case was accepted and has now been fixed for a Preliminary Hearing on 2nd April to determine the validity of the NDA.

My difficulty, like all those who are found on the CrowdJustice website, is that the cost of legal representation is prohibitively high and though I have covered legal costs myself so far, I am unable to pay anything more. I have the support of a specialist firm of employment solicitors, and the offer of representation at the forthcoming hearing from a top level QC, and yet the Trust and their solicitors continue to maintain that my claim is 'vexacious' and have threatened that they will claim costs against me. My solicitors have advised that NDAs cannot be used to prevent a worker from making protected whistle-blowing disclosures about patient safety issues.

Any pledges will go directly to my solicitor to fund my legal costs to give us the best chance of revealing to the public the depths to which NHS managers will go to hide misconduct and malpractice from the public to preserve their own well-paid positions.

If I am successful at this first hearing, it will pave the way for other whistle-blowers to challenge their own agreements and speak out about the bad management practices and culture which they are intended to hide from the public.

In fact, in March 2013, Jeremy Hunt MP/Secretary of State for Health announced that settlement agreements that contain gagging clauses that prevent workers from speaking out about patient safety matters would be banned and not approved by the Department of Health/Treasury.

Why it matters

This case raises public interest issues of whether it is appropriate to silence NHS workers that speak out about patient safety/expose matters of crucial public concern such as NHS consultants’ failure to diagnose/detect cancer.

The recent experiences of Dr Chris Day, Urologist Peter Duffy and numerous others (including myself) show that there are many parts of the NHS management who believe that they are above the law and can squander substantial public funds in order to suppress the truth and destroy innocent employees with impunity.

It is obvious that this culture is dangerous both to patients and staff for what may happen to them as a consequence; patients may continue to be harmed and possibly suffer avoidable death or disability, and whistle-blowing Health Care Professionals have their careers, reputations, and futures destroyed.

Examples of the negligence of NHS authorities to investigate safety concerns as a matter of urgency have had horrific consequences; for example:

Gosport Memorial Hospital - an initial police investigation into an unexplained death occurred in 1989, nearly 20 years ago, nothing was done; the tally of 'premature deaths' (murders) stands at 456 to date.

In the case of Ian Paterson (Breast Surgeon), this surgeon continued to perform dangerous and unnecessary surgery on breast patients for 9 years after concerns were raised.

In my own Trust the senior consultant concerned was allowed to practice unchallenged for a further 2 years following the raising of my own concerns and also those of a consultant colleague; It is perhaps unsurprising to learn that this person was holding not 1 but 2 senior directors' posts at the time.

Senior managers in these Trusts, and in any other Trusts, where whistle blowers were or are being ignored, put patients at risk and are liable for the harm that they allow to happen.

Please help me fight the culture of cover-ups within our NHS to protect the rights of whistle-blowers and in turn, the safety of patients. Thank you.


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Update 2

Sue Allison

July 10, 2019

'Delay, deny and defend' Morecambe Bay Trust sticks to its motto

The last time I posted an update we were waiting for the written judgement from my hearing on 2nd of April and I was hoping that by now I could also tell you about the telephone hearing which was supposed to take place at the end of June.

We have the written judgement now, you can read it here:

Preliminary Hearing Judgement

The full judgement is very lengthy and quite difficult to understand for those who are not intimate with the details; the summary is:

The judgement of the Tribunal is that: 

1. The respondent’s application to strike out the matters and allegations raised by the claimant in her claim form predating 13 April 2015, is refused. Subject to limitation, the Tribunal has jurisdiction to determine the entirety of the claim. 

2. The respondent’s application to strike out allegations in the claim form as identified below and/or for a deposit order as a condition of the claimant pursuing those allegations, is refused.

In her conclusions the judge also said:

This is in the context of a claim of an ongoing course of conduct of a very serious nature involving ongoing detrimental treatment and victimisation of the claimant in many respects and blacklisting. 

…. the claimant has raised an arguable prima facie case

On reading the case judgement there appears to be a random selection of issues within my claim which the Respondent ask to be struck out or alternatively to have a deposit order placed upon them, you can see that the judge refused all these requests. It might be asked why these particular issues were addressed at this preliminary hearing as, in fact, my claim contains 50+ individual incidences of detriment and/or bullying; from what I can gather the Respondent was attempting to make gaps in my evidence by having issues struck out in order to suggest that I had not been the victim of on-going detriment. This would mean that if they were successful in this endeavour they might be able to win on a point of law regardless of the actual detriment that I have suffered.

I believe that the judge understood this to be the case and having seen the very lengthy catalogue of incidents and behaviours towards me (12 pages, 54 separate incidents) she declined to strike out any individual incident, instead declaring that she felt that I had a ‘prima facie’ case which merited being heard in the Tribunal in full.

The Respondent could not find any justifiable grounds for an appeal to this preliminary judgement further strengthening my case.

A telephone hearing was arranged which should have taken place at the end of June, however the Respondent refused to agree to further evidence which we wished to add to my claim and the hearing was postponed due to this, delaying tactics ensuring that a date for the full ET has not been booked and the whole process is further dragged out.

The delay and financial implications are intended to wear the Claimant down psychologically and to cause further stress and uncertainty to them and their family. The Respondent has suggested that 20 days and 25 witnesses would be required to hear the case (unwittingly admitting that my evidence is overwhelming both in volume and quality ‘arguably prima facie’) and even to someone as naive with regard to the law as myself, the suggestion is that they will have to employ some very questionable tactics; lengthy delays, appeals, cost threats and possibly pressure during the Tribunal (as was suffered by Dr Chris Day) in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat.

If this ET is booked for anything like this number of days, then my legal costs will be in the region of £200K a figure which they are aware I do not have at my disposal. I need help to pay for the ongoing costs of my legal team, who are very reasonable but obviously have to pay their staff etc and we have just received the QC’s bill for April 2ndand associated meetings/travel etc which comes to £7,226.

I am asking for your help to cover this bill to enable us to keep going with this campaign, please can you pledge so that we can keep fighting for whistleblowing protection?

 

Capsticks, of course, will be dipping into the public purse, whenever they like, for as much as they can get.

These totally unprofessional ‘bully boy’ tactics are now becoming commonplace and it is time that whistle blowing protection law was changed in order to prevent these miscarriages of justice.

I have no intention of giving up and the complete silence, on the subject of what has happened in the past, by the Trust, suggests that they are going to ‘delay, deny and defend’ to the bitter end. Very senior people in the Morecambe Bay Trust are seriously implicated in wrong-doing if this case get to ET and I have every intention of them all being called as witnesses to account for how they have behaved towards me, my colleagues and patients.

I will not give in, I will win; for whistleblowers, for NHS staff, for patients and relatives of patients and for myself; but I can’t do this by myself so please show me that you can and will back me with pledges and messages of support.

Thank you, your help is invaluable

Update 1

Sue Allison

March 5, 2019

Employment Tribunal finds my Non-Disclosure Agreement unlawful

We won!


Employment Tribunal determines that  NHS settlement agreement is unlawful 

It's been very good news at my hearing on April 2nd when I challenged the legality of a non-disclosure agreement that I was pressured in to signing, by my Trust, in 2015. 

Employment Judge Howard said that I had a 'prima facie ' case,  she said she had listened to my testimony and she believed everything I had told her. Judge Howard declared the NDA to be unlawful and also declined to strike out or place deposit orders on 3 further issues which were discussed on the day. 

This judgement allows me to proceed to the full ET relying on all the bullying and detrimental treatment which I have been subject to since I raised concerns in 2012.

I am still paying the legal bills for the hearing on 2nd April of which the March payment was over £13,000. This payment does not include fees and expenses for the day in court and associated paperwork so I am expecting a further bill of  a similar amount at the end of April. The target has been stretched again as the £15,000 achieved at the end of March has already been used, by my solicitor, to cover fees.

I am very grateful for any pledges towards the meeting of these fees which will be due in May.

It is only by keeping up with my legal expenses that I will be able to proceed to the final hearing next year. The Trust and their solicitors rely on employees not having the financial backing to see their case through. 


An interview with BBC Northwest about my case

The non- disclosure agreement was designed to prevent my speaking about the cancers that had been missed, the delay in investigations and the detrimental treatment towards me and my colleague following our protected disclosures about patient safety.

Now that the agreement has been declared unlawful I can speak about everything that has happened since 2012 and rely on my evidence of detrimental treatment due to whistle blowing at my full Employment Tribunal which is likely to be in Spring 2020 

click here to enlarge

You can read more about my case in this article in Private Eye

Little by little the appalling treatment of whistle-blowers and bereaved relatives, who try to raise concerns in the NHS, is being uncovered. Patient safety will not improve whilst toxic management cultures exist. 

We need to promote cultures of transparency in the NHS

The Trust was determined to protect its own reputation, the reputation of the consultant involved, her close associates and numerous other senior managers who had been involved in covering up and denial.


  

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