Whistleblowing cardiologist Raj Mattu wins unfair dismissal case

The heart doctor said he felt 'vindicated' by the decision after he exposed patient safety fears at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry

A cardiologist who acted as a whistleblower to expose NHS safety fears has won an unfair dismissal case following a lengthy dispute with hospital bosses.

Heart doctor Raj Mattu was “vilified and bullied” after he publicly exposed overcrowding and fears for patient safety at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry in 2001, claiming that there may have been avoidable deaths as a result.

According to his lawyers Ashfords LLP, Dr Mattu was subjected to a year-long “witch hunt” by the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust following the disclosures.

Dr Mattu said he felt “vindicated” by the tribunal’s decision but warned that there was insufficient protection available for whistleblowers in the NHS and said he wanted a meeting with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to discuss his concerns.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: “I was rather concerned that the reason I came into medicine, which was to care for patients and to hopefully save lives, was not a priority or certainly a primary aspect of what managers in the hospital in Coventry were focused on. Patient safety was regularly put at risk and patients were dying that I felt would not have died at other hospitals I had worked at.”

He said he was forced to turn whistleblower when the trust repeatedly ignored his complaints about the treatment of patients, including a policy which allowed five patients to be put in a ward designed for four.

A year after speaking out the doctor, who was on a £70,000 salary, was suspended by the trust on full pay after being accused of bullying. He was dismissed in 2010.

Dr Mattu said that the hospital’s head of security had been asked to monitor him following his decision to publicly uncover the failings. The individual was tasked with trying to find “as much information to use against me as possible".

"I was accused of fraud, I was accused of sexual impropriety, assaults, not doing my duties and so on," he said.

The doctor was cleared this week of wrongdoing by Birmingham Employment Tribunal, which ruled the trust unfairly dismissed him and subjected him to "detriments" because he was a whistleblower.

Dr Mattu said: "I'm absolutely relieved that one of the things that has come out of this case that I have won is that I have been vindicated for what I did, because one of the other key findings of the tribunal is that they found that I had not caused or contributed to towards my dismissal."

But he said the trust's actions were typical of the response of NHS managers.

"Unfortunately that is a common practice of many managers within the NHS, this denial of what the primary reason is as to why you are targeted," he said.

"It is very hard to believe that it is sheer coincidence that, having never faced from 1979 to 2001 any allegations or complaints, that suddenly I should have become so altered in my nature and personality that suddenly more than 200 allegations were justified, I was suspended for five-and-a-half years, and prevented from doing the job I had so much wanted to do since the age of 18.

“I just find it quite difficult to overcome the fact that there is always this attempt to put forward a plausible alternative when the real reason at the heart of why all these allegations were suddenly mustered up is the fact that I had whistle blown, spoken out as an advocate for the patients and was not prepared to accept what was in the best interests of the managers.”

He added: “Emotionally it has been very draining. I have mixed emotions over the judgment: I am relieved that I have won the case, I am also pleased that my detriments have been recognised by the employment tribunal.

"But 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 whistleblowers in the NHS from coming forward and risking having their career and livelihood destroyed."

He said he wanted talks with Mr Hunt and NHS chief executive Simon Stevens about his case and the treatment of whistleblowers.

"I am hoping Jeremy Hunt will now grant me a meeting and Mr Stevens, the new chief executive of the NHS, will eventually meet with me so that we may discuss my experiences and, perhaps most importantly, learn important lessons that will prevent any other doctor from being treated this way," he said.

For doctors and nurses who expose problems "the protection presently available in the NHS is not adequate".

Dr Mattu's solicitor Stephen Moore believes the trust spent more than £6 million defending itself during the long-running case in a "David v Goliath battle".

Mr Moore said: "The tribunal's findings - that Dr Mattu was a whistleblower and was unfairly dismissed - completely vindicate him.

"Dr Mattu was a fantastic cardiologist and it was tragic that his pursuit of safety and the highest standards in care led to him being vilified, bullied and harassed out of a job he loved."

After being suspended Dr Mattu won a disciplinary hearing and the trust was forced to reinstate him in 2008.

A year later an inquiry by the General Medical Council also cleared him of the long-standing bullying allegations.

But Dr Mattu continued to experience hostility from management and in 2009 launched grievance procedures.

This was met with counter-allegations of more bullying and breach of confidentiality and in 2010 Dr Mattu was dismissed by the trust while on sick leave.

In a statement, the trust defended its actions and said it was “disappointed” by the tribunal’s decision, which it would consider appealing against after reviewing it in more detail.

But it said it was pleased the tribunal had rejected Dr Mattu’s  claim that his dismissal in 2010 was linked to his whistleblowing.

It said: “As a Trust, we will continue to support all our staff to raise issues of concern in our effort to provide continuous improvement in our services to patients.

“The Tribunal judgment also states that his dismissal was not on the grounds of race discrimination or victimisation and further rejected Dr Mattu's claim that he should be reinstated as a consultant at this Trust.

"Members of the public have rightly expressed concern over the time it has taken to resolve this case and it is of regret to the Trust that it could not have been resolved sooner.

“We will be making no further comment on this matter at this time.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Strategic Partnerships Coordinator

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Their research appears at the f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting startup disruptin...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen