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NHS Consultant Whistleblower

Daily Mail Newspaper - January 2016

A consultant claims to have been victimised after blowing the whistle on colleagues at a children's unit.
Jonathan Brooks claims that consultants prefered to do private work than treat NHS patients. 
We contacted the Daily Mail newspaper about the case who ran the following story.
Hospital top brass 'put playing golf and private ops before NHS work.': Consultant weeks £500,000 after being suspended when he spoke out about staff level on children's burns unit.
A consultant who blew the whistle on under-staffing at a children’s burns unit has claimed some of his colleagues were focused on money-making private work and playing golf in their free time.

Plastic surgeon Jonathan Brooks, 51, is seeking more than £500,000 in compensation after claiming he was effectively suspended because of his complaints.

He spoke out after a ‘lack of adequate medical cover’ left him concerned about patient safety, claiming that other doctors ‘abandon burn victims for more lucrative areas of work’ such as cosmetic breast surgery or to set up skin cancer clinics.

One manager was said to have become a ‘very accomplished golfer’ after spending just 45 per cent of his time at the hospital.

In a witness statement to a tribunal, Mr Brooks also described his unease at child patients being treated alongside horrifically burned adults – including paedophiles in hospital after being attacked with boiling water in prison – which he described as ‘the stuff of visual nightmares’.

Mr Brooks, who earned £86,000 a year at City Hospital in Nottingham, also alleges there were ‘frequent clinical incidents due to the shortage of key staff’.

He said he was ‘persecuted to the ends of the earth’ by management, whose conduct flew in the face of the findings of the Francis Report into the Stafford Hospital scandal, which called for protection for whistleblowers after up to 1,200 patients died as a result of poor care.

Mr Brooks claims he was undermined to the extent that he was forced to step down from his role as clinical lead for burns because his position became ‘untenable’.

Mr Brooks said his line manager, Graeme Perks, the head of the department of plastic, reconstructive and burns surgery at the hospital, negotiated a ‘job plan’ for himself which allowed him to work for 12 days and then take eight off, an opportunity to ‘maximise his private sector income’. 

The consultant added: ‘Effectively he was paid for a full-time role and worked 60 per cent of the time. During his eight days off, he disappeared.’

Mr Brooks said another manager worked only 45 per cent of the time, which enabled him to become a ‘very accomplished golfer on public funds’. 

He said: ‘My impression was that resources were being diverted from burns work to breast work under Mr Perks’ tenure. That was leaving the burns service short of resources.’The consultant said he and a colleague effectively covered the workload of five surgeons, yet by 2011 resources appeared to be diverted away from burns treatment towards ‘highly lucrative’ cosmetic breast surgery. 

Mr Brooks claims he was subject to false allegations of bullying a locum and was referred to the NHS’s counter fraud agency after being wrongly accused of working in the private sector on NHS time. 

He was finally ‘excluded’ from work in July last year after Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said colleagues were unable to work with him.

He claims he was effectively suspended for blowing the whistle, adding: ‘If I see something illegal or patient safety being put at risk I will not hide that or be quiet about it.

‘The trust is the complete opposite of the Francis Report in that regard. That report encouraged staff to challenge illegality and for the trust to be transparent, fair and honest in its dealings with whistleblowers. 

Here, however, they persecute you to the ends of the earth, even when child patient safety is compromised along the way.’

Mr Brooks is claiming to have suffered a detriment for being a whistleblower, injury to feeling, compensation for stress and £450,000 ‘pecuniary losses’ – covering the loss of anticipated private income from consultancy work over the past three years.

In total he is seeking £502,000 in compensation, plus interest, and wants to resume working at City Hospital.

Lawrence Davies, of Equal Justice Solicitors, who is representing Mr Brooks, described the consultant’s suspension as ‘draconian’. 

He told the Daily Mail: ‘The Government must do much more to protect NHS whistleblowers and much more to protect NHS monies and time being wasted in this way.’

A spokesman for Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said: ‘We have robustly defended the claim made by Mr Brooks and it is now a matter for the tribunal to consider.’ The tribunal resumes next month.