The latest case in PCU ‘s crowded whistleblower folder is that of Dr Mattu, the cardiologist who warned that that overcrowded wards at Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital had caused the deaths of at least two patients and was suspended on full pay for eight years before being dismissed in 2010.
Dr Mattu claimed that one of his patients died while he was attempting resuscitation in a bay so overcrowded that nurses could not reach him with lifesaving equipment. With two senior nursing colleagues he lodged an official serious clinical incident report on the case, and raised the issue of the management policy of placing five beds in bays designed for four patients, which he said had cost at least two lives. The majority of the hospital’s doctors, nurses and consultants backed his appeal for an end to the ‘five-in-four’ policy.
Five months after making his complaint, he was suspended from duty and a disciplinary file passed to the General Medical Council containing more than 200 allegations, including the bullying claims, was dismissed by the GMC in 2009.
A clinical governance report by the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) had listed a number of serious criticisms and found the Coventry hospital had a death rate far higher than expected. The CHI condemned the policy of ‘five-in-four’ and demanded it be stopped immediately. It also warned of a ‘culture of fear’ created by senior managers when dealing with staff raising complaints.
Walsgrave Hospital closed six years ago and was replaced by the PFI University Hospital, Coventry but there has been no recognition of the public service given by Dr Mattu in alerting the authorities and he has not been reinstated or offered other work.
All this in the face of the so-called Whistleblowers Act –
David Lewis, the admirable Professor of Employment Law at Middlesex, writing in the Industrial Law Journal,* highlighted several weaknesses in the legislation, and – relevant to Dr Mattu’s case – it does not prevent employers from “blacklisting” and refusing to hire those who are known within the industry to have made disclosures in previous jobs.
And so it goes on at national and international level.
The ‘whistleblower law’ is honoured only in the breach
*Lewis, David (1998). “The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998″. Industrial Law Journal (Industrial Law Society) 27, payment required to read Oxford Journal pdf text.