Consultants are piling pressure on Health management for an external review of disciplinary procedures over their fears the process has been “abused to suppress free speech of doctors”, Express has learned.
Members of the Medical Staff Committee (MSC) have this week signed a letter addressed to Medical Director Patrick Armstrong detailing their concern about “the growing number of investigations and suspensions of medical staff”.
They state that some of these are running “for protracted periods of time and beyond what we consider reasonable e.g. the 1-3 month time window recommended by NHS England for a full investigation”.
Noting that suspending a doctor can have “damaging psychological, reputational and financial implications to the individual” as well as impacting their family, colleagues and patients, the letter adds: “Obviously it is important that concerns about a doctor are investigated appropriately for patient safety but we are also keen to have reassurances that all investigations undertaken are fair and measures taken proportionate.”
It goes on to state that an external review should be urgently commissioned, taking into account UK benchmark standards, feedback from doctors who have previously been investigated or others involved in the process such as BMA representatives and medical indemnity organisations to identify improvements. It should result in recommendations to “strengthen the investigative process to ensure employees have confidence in its fairness.”
“Should the review find evidence of pre-meditated attempts to suppress an individual’s autonomy or to induce a dismissal via abuse of disciplinary actions, then we request that those responsible, in either an active or passive role, face appropriate sanctions themselves,” the letter says.
It comes after Dr Mike Richardson, a senior rehab consultant and Clinical Director for Medicine, was suspended in the days after the States Assembly debate over the future of Samarès Ward. The reason for his suspension has not been made public.
In their letter, MSC members call for the investigation accompanying his suspension be “concluded as soon as possible and certainly within a month, as Dr Richardson holds a senior role as Clinical Director for Medicine his ongoing absence will impact greatly on the running of the medical division and the rheumatology and inpatient services.”
Referring to speculation that his suspension relates to raising concerns about rehabilitation services, the letter adds: “We feel it is important that his situation is resolved urgently if islanders are to be reassured that the professionals caring for them are able to act in their best interests without fear of reprisals in so doing.”
Constable Richard Buchanan, Vice-Chair of the States Employment Board, which oversees all employment matters in the public sector, said in a statement yesterday: “The States Employment Board does not routinely comment on proceedings involving individual employees. However, following sustained speculation, we feel obliged to provide this update.
“All complaints involving clinicians require us to follow established procedures. We do this alongside the standards set out by the General Medical Council. In such cases, the suspension of an employee is a neutral act and no adverse inference should be drawn. In this instance the complaint is unrelated to the recent political debate concerning the provision of healthcare services from Samarès Ward.
“We are committed to treating our employees with respect and do not propose to comment further.”
It comes amid extreme turbulence in the senior layers of the Health service.
Express has also learnt that Deputy Medical Director, anaesthetist and ICU medic Dr Paul Hughes has resigned from the service and is now working in Wales. The Government was contacted last Friday (28 January) to clarify the circumstances around his departure and continuity arrangements, but is yet to provide a response.
On Tuesday (1 February), Express learnt that rheumatology consultant Dr Jon Bevan had tendered his resignation. It’s understood that he will be leaving in March. The Government is yet to comment.
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