• Doctor at Great Ormond Street Hospital wins case against “dysfunctional department”
  • Case reveals factions and grudges going back more than a decade
  • One doctor referred to the General Medical Council over allegation he wrongly claimed £8 on expenses.

A consultant has won her claim for sex discrimination at an internationally renowned teaching hospital, in a case that revealed a “dysfunctional department”.

Roxana Gunny took Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children Foundation Trust to an employment tribunal after being sidelined when she returned from maternity leave.

The tribunal’s judgement said: “Unfortunately, the neuroradiology department has for many years suffered from factionalism with a culture of complaints and counter complaints.

“The department has been characterised by conflict of a nature and intensity that would not be expected in a professional environment. [Wui Chong] played a significant role in that conflict.”

The neuroradiologist’s case has not been given a date for a remedy hearing and the trust would not confirm the size of any payout it made. Both she and the colleague she directed most of her claim at, Dr Wui Chong are still employed at the organisation, according to LinkedIn and the trust’s website respectively.

The tribunal heard:

  • One consultant was referred to the GMC by his colleagues over accusations he had wrongly claimed the London congestion charge of £8 on expenses
  • Another consultant complained that Dr Chong had offered to show her a police report into the congestion charge doctor during an appraisal
  • A consultant raised a grievance against the medic saying he had “spread gossip” about her and worked to “undermine” her. She said her relationship with Dr Chong had deteriorated after she had children
  • Senior managers drew up a draconian set of rules to manage out a colleague returning from sick leave

The cases go back to 2008 and in March this year Dr Gunny won her case, although last month she lost another case brought against Dr Chong and the private hospital company HCA, which they both worked for.

Dr Gunny had supported Dr Chong in some of these earlier incidents, the judgement said: “When the claimant’s maternity commenced relations between [them] were good. The claimant had been, in effect, part of [Dr Chong’s] faction”.

But while she was away, the trust introduced a “Standard Operating Procedure”, which the tribunal said was intended to be used to manage out another doctor.

The judgement referred to a “breach document” that was to be used to determine if the SOP had been breached. It said this was “an extraordinary document. For example a breach would occur if a person was one minute late to an multidisciplinary team meeting with ‘zero tolerance’ for such a breach. Zero tolerance was the benchmark for every entry on the breach document”.

The judgement added that it included a “behaviours/attitude” measure and that “the document was designed to catch out [another doctor] on her return from sickness so she could be [the] subject of disciplinary action”.

Employment judge James Tayler wrote: “While [Dr Chong] had a high opinion of [Dr Gunny’s] ability, not affected by her gender, he considered that on return from maternity leave she must necessarily need to reduce her job duties because she was a new mother.

“He thought the claimant was trying to do too much work as a new mother, in circumstances similar to [another doctor in the department who had returned from maternity leave, clashed with Dr Chong and been off-sick for a year] and that it would not be possible for her to do so effectively.

“He did not hold similar views about men.”

The judgement said a “hostile working environment” had been created because Dr Chong “stated that the claimant would have to seriously rethink her life priorities and suggested that she might go down the same path as as [another doctor in the department], ie that she would take on too much work, would not be able to cope as a working mother, would end up being subject to criticism of her performance and go off sick”.

The judge also criticised the trust’s handling of a grievance raised by Dr Gunny in 2015.

A trust spokeswoman said: “We deeply regret the way this matter was handled, and the fact that our actions in this case weren’t consistent with our values and commitment to our staff.

“We’re taking the detailed findings of the tribunal very seriously. We have apologised to the claimant and are ensuring that all appropriate learnings are taken on board.”

In 2012, the former head of radiology at the trust criticised management, claiming it had stopped consultants carrying out scans for the justice system, used to determine whether children had been physically abused.

Professor Christine Hall said the trust had taken the decision after the Baby P case.

Dr Chong, Dr Gunny, the doctor who had been in a similar position to Dr Gunny and others in the department responded in a statement at the time that the trust had been “supportive” and that “we we do not recognise any suggestion that individuals are not able to raise concerns.”