• Clinical director of trust’s obstetrics and gynaecology service dismissed after row over private work
  • Surgeon who complained about him loses private work, and claims against private provider
  • Wins £920,000

A clinical director was dismissed from his job at a district general hospital after a subordinate raised concerns that he was performing “unsafe” private work, a tribunal has revealed.

The unnamed consultant was dismissed from Dorset County Hospital Foundation Trust after a dispute between him and a surgeon, Mr Mamdouh Shoukrey, led to them being unable to work together. He had been Mr Shoukrey’s line manager at the NHS trust.

The employment tribunal judgement issued on 28 May said: “The claimant [Mr Shoukrey] considered that the procedure employed by his colleague was unsafe, and that his actions in operating without telling the claimant were unprofessional.”

After raising the concerns with the trust and BMI Healthcare where they both also worked, Mr Shoukrey received no more work from the private provider, he told judges.

The obstetrics and gynaecology surgeon brought a claim against BMI, which runs a hospital in Dorchester 1.2 miles away from DCHFT, saying he had suffered financially because of the patient safety concern he had raised. Mr Shoukrey continues to work for the NHS but brought the claim over the loss of private earnings, put at roughly £100,000 a year by the tribunal, over the next 14 years of his career.

The tribunal ordered the private company to pay Mr Shoukrey £920,000 in compensation.

The judges said they agreed with the surgeon’s legal counsel that BMI’s approach had been “to admit nothing, apologise for nothing, remedy nothing, and to close ranks.”

They also said that “[BMI] sought to portray [Mr Shoukrey] as someone who had a reputation that was perhaps not all it should be and that this would affect his earning for the rest of his career.”

A spokeswoman for the company would not comment on the safety issue Mr Shoukrey raised, or outline what it had done to investigate or address his concerns.

It later issued a statement saying: ”We have received the judgement. Our primary objective is for the safe and effective delivery of patient care, and this drives our decisions. We carried out an investigation at the time, and this has fed into our continual processes of effective governance”.

The judgement said the consultant surgeon who Mr Shoukrey had complained about continued to work for BMI after his dismissal from his NHS role. 

A spokeswoman for the trust said she would not comment on individual cases, but Mr Shoukrey’s is one of several involving the trust and its senior medics over recent years.

Last month, the trust’s former clinical director for obstetrics and gynaecology lost the first stage of his whistleblowing case against the trust.

Muhammad Iftikhar ran the department from May 2012 until his dismissal in February 2016, a separate tribunal judgement published on 30 May revealed.

The employment tribunal ruling said the trust’s disciplinary panel “concluded that the breakdown of the functioning in the O&G team, and specifically in relation to the claimant’s presence in the clinical team, was serious in its nature, likely to impact patient care and safety, and that action was required to address this”.

It added: “They came to the conclusion that there were no steps which could be taken short of the termination of the claimant’s employment”

A Care Quality Commission report in 2016 gave the trust’s maternity services a rating of “requires improvement”. It said consultants in the service “did not all work well as a team and working relationships were strained. In some areas, managers were put under pressure to work clinically”.

It added: “Improvements were needed in the responsiveness of maternity and gynaecology services.”

Mr Iftikhar claimed he had blown the whistle on a colleague in 2013 who was working within the trust and externally and who he claimed had “received payment for extra work which had not been undertaken”.

The judgement document said Mr Iftikhar had made referrals to the NHS Counter Fraud service, the General Medical Council and the trust’s then chief executive Patricia Miller.

The judgement said: “It would not appear to be in dispute that there were problems in the claimant’s relationship with colleagues.”

The judges said: “There are cogent reasons for concluding that the claimant’s communication to the GMC is very much in consequence of his being unable to maintain sensible working relationships with his colleagues, and then wishing to air his personal views as retaliation against those who had already made allegations against him.”

Mr Iftikhar had applied to the employment tribunal to ask it to order the trust to continue to pay his salary until his full case is heard, but this was refused.

The judges added in conclusion: “The tribunal does not know what rabbits may be pulled out of the claimant’s hat in preparing for the final determination of the claim, but if there are rabbits, they have remained firmly hidden in the claimant’s hat at the interim relief preliminary hearing.”

The trust lost another case against a consultant in August, with an employment tribunal ruling a histopathologist had been unfairly dismissed.

Dorset County had argued that Corrado D’Arrigo had not suffered because he was a whistleblower but because “of an irretrievable breakdown in the functioning of the histopathology team, specifically working relationships within that team and with the trust’s management.”