• Clinical director of women’s services at North West London Hospitals Trust loses employment tribunal
  • Judge rules changes to shift pattern disrupting private work after merger were the real reason for Onsy Louca’s resignation.
  • Consultant gynaecologist could earn between £240,000 and £360,000 a year from private work, tribunal hears
  • Mr Louca’s private income funded charity providing care in Ethiopia

A former clinical director has lost his employment tribunal case after a judge ruled he quit his trust over the impact a reconfiguration would have had on his private work, not over patient safety.

The judgement, published this week, said a dispute had arisen between London North West Healthcare Trust and gynaecologist Onsy Louca after the organisation attempted to change his shift patterns following a merger.

The trust was formed from the merger of North West London Hospitals Trust and Ealing Hospital Trust in October 2014, and the combined organisation planned to move all elective gynaecological procedures from Northwick Park to Ealing. The tribunal heard it could take more than an hour to travel from one to the other.

Mr Louca, who had worked at Northwick Park from 2000 until his resignation in 2016, also performed work at the Clementne Churchill Hospital run by BMI Healthcare, a short distance from Northwick Park. He was appointed clinical director of women’s services at the hospital in 2003.

The surgeon, who the tribunal heard often worked an average of 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, argued that if he were to perform a full list on Wednesdays at Ealing he would be unable to attend the multidisciplinary team follow ups the next day.

Employment judge Oliver Hyams said: “I concluded that the real reason why he concluded that would not be able to see those patients on the next day was that he was doing private work at the BMI hospital in the morning of the next day.

The tribunal heard that Mr Louca could make between £240,000 and £360,000 a year from his BMI work. His NHS salary at the time of his resignation was £189,000.

The judge added: “While safety was uppermost in the claimant’s mind when he resigned, and in my view he acted in good faith in resigning, I concluded that he was subconsciously aware that he could not, consistently with the terms of his contract of employment with the respondent, justify continuing to do his Thursday morning BMI hospital clinics if he was required to undertake an all day operating list at Ealing Hospital on Wednesdays.

“This is because he could as a matter of routine have gone to Ealing Hospital on Thursday mornings if he had not had his BMI hospital clinics, and if it was in fact unsafe for him not to go to Ealing Hospital on Thursday mornings to see the patients on whom he had operated on the previous day, then it was contrary to the [NHS contract] provisions to continue to conduct those BMI hospital clinics.”

He added: “I concluded that the claimant wanted to be able to carry on doing his privately paid work at the BMI hospital as much as he could because of his desire to continue to fund Wings of Healing.”

Wings of Healing is a charity that provides free treatment, including surgery, to up to 1,000 patients a year in Ethiopia.

Mr Louca did not apply for the role of clinical director in the new merged organisation because of his dissatisfaction with the trust over the handling of a grievance raised about him by another consultant, the tribunal heard. He ceased to be clinical director of women’s services in December 2014.

The judge added: “I conclude these long reasons with an observation. The claimant, I concluded, was scrupulously honest when giving evidence to me. If he had not been, then he would not have acknowledged in oral evidence that neither the failure to inform him of the outcome of [the fellow consultant’s] grievance nor the distance of his home to Ealing Hospital were reasons for his resignation.

“If and to the extent that I preferred the evidence of the respondent’s witnesses to that of the claimant, I did so purely because I concluded that their recollections were more reliable than the claimant’s.”

Mr Louca was approached for comment and said he had nothing to add at this time.