It being Easter, with MPs on their unexpected break, I must confess right away that I have not got as far with this case as I had hoped to. But there have been several near misses.

In the sandwich queue at the cafeteria in Portcullis House, the new£1m-per-MP office building at Westminster, I bumped into Geoffrey Robinson, who is - as the world now knows - more usually a champagne-ratherthan-sandwiches socialist.

He was in a rush, so we could not talk about the case. When I phoned the MP for Coventry North West later on the mobile, the sound of cutlery in the background indicated a social gathering. We failed again. I next tried Bob Ainsworth, the junior environment minister in whose Coventry North East seat the controversy resides.

He has changed his number without personally informing me. So I tried nice Jim Cunningham, the veteran former shop steward who sits for Coventry South. 'Can't help you, Michael, ' he said. 'The best person on this is Geoffrey Robinson. . . '

We are looking at a startling case of management stubbornness, if Mr Robinson's account (apparently backed by his two Coventry colleagues) is to be trusted. Have you heard of the case of Alban Barros D'Sa, the whistleblowing surgeon at the Walsgrave Hospital in Lady Godiva's old stomping ground?

Back in September 1999 he and two other doctors, probably encouraged by the then health secretary Frank Dobson's whistleblowing legislation the previous year, complained about the perioperative mortality rate of work done by one surgeon in the colorectal department. The matter was quickly resolved by a professional advisory panel. By December 1999 the surgeon in question ('competent in others areas', Mr Robinson told the Commons, which is why he did not name him) had moved to other work. But Mr Barros D'Sa had been suspended in September. Eighteen months later, the MP said, he remains suspended. Why?

Gisela Stuart, junior minister for awkward backbench debates, was not much help. 'As you know, ' she told the turbulent Mr Robinson, 'issues around staff management are for the employing NHS body'.

On this occasion the MP himself was less reticent. It may be the bad publicity his business career has suffered at the hands of Tom Bower's book, The Paymaster, which suggested he was more of a playboy than a tycoon. He is 62 and has been the local MP since 1976.

He can look after himself.

He explained that Mr D'Sa's professional competence had not been challenged, but an independent panel, led by a QC, had found him at fault for 'oppressing a junior' - or 'quizzing him rather aggressively about perioperative mortality', as he put it himself.

That warranted a reinstatement with a warning, as the panel suggested. But no, managers retaliated with a 'document of mitigation'. One major reason for nonreinstatement was that Mr D'Sa had written privately to local MPs.

Managers lost a court injunction fight, had costs awarded against them, but persevered and (at the time of the debate) were seeking to appeal, no doubt using taxpayers'money: this in a hospital which - like so many others - struggles with nurse shortages and other cash problems. It is late at night and I cannot reach MPs, but the Coventry Evening Telegraph's website paints a familiar picture.

That is what Ms Stuart did, too. She spoke warmly of Walsgrave's£6m of new investment in the radiotherapy and oncology departments, its new scanner, its trust's new status as a university teaching hospital. She could have mentioned that President Clinton would have been rushed there ('Hospital surgeons on red alert') if anyone had shot him at nearby Warwick University in December.

As for Mr D'Sa - well, NHS supremo Nigel Crisp has heard the MPs' fears and spoken to the regional director.

New procedures will let such cases be resolved with fewer last-resort suspensions by asking the national clinical assessment authority for mediation. A protocol for hard cases is being drawn up. Not much comfort for a suspended surgeon or for the would-be whistleblowers who read his case. As the MP says: 'When we are so desperately short of cancer surgeons, how can a surgeon of acknowledged competence. . . be left idle for 18 months?'