Doctor claims he was dismissed for whistle-blowing over child protection


Nina Lakhani
Thursday 05 April 2012 17:58

A senior paediatrician who was sacked by a West Midlands hospital for alleged “gross misconduct and insubordination” claims he lost his job for blowing the whistle about child protection issues, an employment tribunal has heard.

David Drew, 64, was sacked by Walsall Manor Hospital in December 2010 for creating a “toxic environment” amid allegations by management that he was mentally unstable and plaguing colleagues with unwanted religious messages.

Dr Drew, a respected paediatrician with a 37-year unblemished career and a practising Christian, had repeatedly raised the alarm about the dangers of a broken heating system, staffing cuts and bullying managers on child safety.

The Birmingham employment tribunal has heard evidence that the problems started when Dr Drew, who was clinical director at the time, raised concerns about a consultant who allowed a child with suspicious injuries to go home despite warnings from other staff. The toddler, Kyle Keen, was later killed by his abusive step-father, Tyrone Matthews, who was jailed for manslaughter in 2007.

Dr Drew said he told senior managers that recommendations by the subsequent inquiry into the child’s death were not being taken seriously.

Dr Drew also repeated concerns about sick children being cared for in freezing wards during the winter of 2008/09, and that children were forced to share toilet facilities with adults on an unsupervised ward, despite earlier incidents of alleged child abuse. He also raised concerns about cutting paediatric nurses and doctors in order to meet savings required for foundation trust status.

Dr Drew told the tribunal that the chief executive, Sue James, had failed to adequately deal with these serious incidents.

Dr Drew was first suspended in 2009 for six weeks following a complaint by a senior nurse that he was undermining her, but which was subsequently dismissed as unfounded. It was after that, vague allegations about mental illness and inappropriate religious behaviour – which centre on Dr Drew emailing colleagues the Prayer of St Ignatius – were first made.

A grievance by Dr Drew about his suspension was dealt with by an independent review panel. He was told to accept carte blanch the recommendations “for the greater good of the department” which included refraining from making any reference to religion in professional communications. In June 2010 he was offered a “generous” severance package as long he signed a gagging clause and left quickly and quietly. He refused.

He was sacked in December 2010 after what he says was a fundamentally flawed disciplinary investigation, for refusing to accept the recommendation about communicating religious beliefs. The chief executive rejected an assertion by Dr Drew’s lawyers that she had simply “shot the messenger” of bad news.

The trust told the tribunal that Dr Drew was an excellent clinician and a good leader, but that there had been a complete breakdown in trust and confidence.

Drew is claiming unfair dismissal on the grounds of victimisation and religious discrimination, but told The Independent: “My profound belief is that I was sacked for raising serious concerns. The trust used the prayer as a lever to get rid of me.”

In summing up Eleena Misra, counsel for the trust, said: “There is no evidence to support the claim that the claimant was targeted for being a Christian rather than being subject to a recommendation that related to his communication style which included religious references.”

She added: “She [the chief executive] needed everyone in the department to accept the recommendations including Dr Drew ... therefore it was understandable that he was referred to a disciplinary panel.”

The judgement is expected in the next few weeks.

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